“Aftersun” is clearly told from Sophie’s point of view, but the discerning viewer will notice that there are scenes where Sophie is not present. The film is therefore from the point of view of adult Sophie, an adult – herself a new mother – who looks back on this vacation, curious about what her father must have been through. She knows her own vacation memories. But what was going on with him?
Wells intersperses the vacation with dreamlike, surreal “rave” sequences, where a grown-up Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall, whose directorial debut in 2016″Mom“I’ve admired and commented so much for this site) stands on a crowded dance floor, catching sight of her father writhing to the music in the intermittent flashes of strobe lights. She wants to reach out, touch him, hold him. Sophie is an adult now. She understands him so much better now. What would it be like if she could talk to him? They would still have so much to say to each other. In a way, “Aftersun” is an act of imaginative empathy Sophie can now look at things that child Sophie couldn’t see.
This once distant point of view, this slightly distanced posture, gives the film its melancholic melody of an almost elegiac sweetness. Right now it’s all sunshine and laughter, Calum and Sophie having ice cream, taking mud baths, swimming, or whatever that the resort is cheap and there’s construction going on. What matters is being together. Mescal (so wonderful in “Normal People”) gives such an earthy, tactile performance, steeped in detail. There are fleeting glimpses of worry and self-loathing, his fears of not being good enough, not being a good provider or failing him… all the things he feels he must hide – and, for the most part – hide.
Frankie Corio is a newcomer. She is alert, sensitive and has a completely natural presence. The dynamic between Corio and Mescal is just amazing – they are so comfortable with each other! They are playful and thoughtful, they derive joy from each other, but are also capable of hurting each other. This dynamic is a tribute both to Mescal and Corio, of course, but also to Wells’ gifts in casting and working with actors.
Cinematographer Gregory Oke uses a soft and rich palette that is summery and saturated, and often keeps the frame off center, destabilizing the point of view. Calum is often seen through a doorway, or as a reflection – in a mirror or TV screen – obscured, half there, half not there, similar to adult Sophie’s glimpses of him at the rave: the strobe is so violent, it is impossible to see it in its entirety, to perceive it as there and in the flesh. Sound designer Mehmet Aksoy also does a good job, especially in a scene where Calum goes to the beach in the middle of the night to take a swim. Calum is engulfed in darkness, and the soft lapping of the waves slowly crescating to the sound of the thundering surf.