Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells debuted this intimate drama during the critics week of the Cannes festival, and the praise for “Aftersun” has been pouring in ever since. There was almost no subsequent festival where this Scottish art film was not shown and an Anglo-American critic who did not compete in praises, but I was not really touched by the hype. It is a film in which we follow the week-long vacation of an 11-year-old girl and her 31-year-old father in Turkey, and 31-year-old Sophie now recalls those events twenty years ago. And as is usually the case with memories, it dances somewhere between what really happened and what a grown woman has built in her head in the meantime.
It’s like a dash in the memory of an adult who can’t quite remember all the details of certain events and moments, but the gaps are supplemented and built upon. It’s a movie where there aren’t really any dramatic events, which detractors would say is one of those movies where nothing happens. We follow the summer holidays of Calum (Paul Mescal from Normal People) and his daughter Sophie (a great little debutante Frankie Corio) in an almost documentary style. We enter the story in medias res and we don’t get any explanations about their relationship, but we soon find out that Calum and Sohia’s mom divorced and that he no longer lives with his daughter. It seems that after the divorce, Calum didn’t spend much time with his daughter and he designed the summer vacation partly to make up for it all.
It is also clear to us that Calum had a daughter at a very young age, and as time passes, it seems to us that he himself realizes that he is not up to the role of a father and that he has nothing to offer his daughter. Sophie is a curious girl and it is clear to us that she is a child. However, at the age of 11, she is already on the way to entering puberty, she will meet a team a few years older during one of those typical idiotic British vacations where these lazy people hardly ever leave the hotel. And although Sophie still can’t fully understand their behavior, we all probably know situations from our childhood when we wanted to make fun of the older team. “Aftersun” was one of those tender, emotional and touching films, minimalistic and sensual, which try to provoke some kind of internal reaction in the viewer, but this was not the case for me.