The Quiet Beauty of “Aftersun”

By Emily Cookson | Staff Writer

4 mins read
people sitting on red chairs
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

As I sat down in the theater to watch “Aftersun,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. Directed by Charlotte Wells, the movie conveys the concept of blurred memory and the ambiguous feelings of childhood loss in a way that is poignant and honest. Overall, I consider “Aftersun” to be one of the most beautiful movies of all time, especially because I lost my father around the same age as the main character Sophie. 

First and foremost, the use of reflection and videotape is seamlessly blended throughout the film in a way that feels natural but still accomplishes its goal. Representing memories in this way makes them feel unclear, illuminating the difference between Sophie’s recollection of her father, Calum, and his true identity. The conversation created between Sophie and Calum through the reflections and recordings feels personal and intimate, yet distant at the same time. Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio, who play Calum and Sophie, respectively, seem to truly consider each other father and daughter, and their adoration for each other is unquestionable. 

The repetition of these beautiful shots is crucial in the development of Sophie’s perspective on the situation. The shots shown flashing between memory and the despair for human existence, in which her father is often out of reach, truly represent the inability to grasp the reason one’s father left, as well as the guilt associated with being unable to make him stay.  

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

The  gentle intimacy between Sophie and Calum allows the viewer to feel comforted by Calum’s apparent love for his daughter.  Examples include when Callum applied the sunscreen on Sophie, and of course, the final father-daughter dance. The mix of David Bowie’s voice and the downfall of Sophie and Calum’s relationship is incredible and serves as another example of the film using its assets to depict the idea of vague memories. The movie’s moments of gentle familial intimacy create an unavoidable sense of humanity that makes the viewer feel as if they are reliving these distant memories along with Sophie.

Mescal, who received an Oscar nomination for the film, displays a quiet sadness that is heard within his words and seen within his facial expressions. The ability of Mescal and Corio to create characters so human and so alive is something that deserves recognition. While the movie itself moves slowly, the characters breathe a sense of energy and love into each scene. I did not feel bored for one second while watching this film. Instead, I relished in deep enjoyment and appreciation for Wells’ representation of a phenomenon I had never seen depicted in film.

Even if you have not experienced an event similar to Sophie’s loss of her father, there is not much lost from the viewing experience. The life etched into each beautiful shot and gentle moment of this film allows anyone to feel the heartache of childhood loss and enjoy the melancholy appreciation of familial love.

Emily Cookson is a first year majoring in English and Philosophy .

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