Aftersun, Charlotte Wells’ ‘emotionally autobiographical’ film about a close father-daughter relationship, touched us all in the discussion group. For one member, it was not so much a film but a piece of art, moving with a sense of foreboding. It had an undercurrent of loss. We had nothing negative to say about it.
Some of us looked for literal answers as to what happened to the father Calum, played so sensitively by Paul Mescal. Others saw events in the film as symbolic, not about Calum’s suicide but about life changes. The film focused on Sophie’s memories, as she views old camcorder footage in later years.
Aftersun explored a Turkish resort holiday where the father-daughter dynamic shifted. Sophie, aged 11, was developing into a woman. We see her growing independence, her friendships with older young people and her first kiss. Perhaps, we thought, this had an impact on Calum’s fragile sense of self. He may have felt not so needed.
We begin to understand that this is the last precious holiday Sophie had with her father. Their last dance at the disco is significantly ‘Under Pressure’ – throughout the film we have snatches of awareness that things are not right for Calum. He has money problems; his relationship has ended and we see him sobbing alone.
We loved the close father-daughter relationship – it was ‘beautiful’ said one member of the discussion group. Sophie talked about the comfort of knowing they were under the same sky. At the beginning, someone assumes they are brother and sister. He assures Sophie that he will always be there for her, which makes the ending very poignant.
Our discussion group praised the cinematography and the sound. We liked the scene where Calum was smoking on the balcony and we could hear Sophie breathing while asleep. The ominous scene with the roaring dark sea was a highlight. We liked the inclusion of the older Sophie seen in fragmented moments.
Despite the sense of loss, we valued the way that the film culminated with continuity, with us spotting the Turkish rug Calum bought on holiday in Sophie’s bedroom. We see her with her partner and hear a baby in the background.
This was a film that connected with painful life experiences and it was uplifting that everyone in the discussion group was sensitive and understanding, listening respectfully to each other.