Aftersun

Posted on October 27, 2022 at 5:30 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for brief sexual material and some language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Diversity Issues: Alcohol, scenes in bar
Date Released to Theaters: October 28, 2022
Copyright 2022 A24

Two universal truths are devastatingly sad, even for those lucky enough to have stable, happy families. First, we spend our lives trying to find the sense of complete comfort and security we had in the arms of our parents, or wish we did. Second, except in the most tragic circumstances, we leave our children too soon. Even if they are parents themselves at the end of our lives, it is always too soon, and we are aware of that all the time. We love seeing them become more independent, even as we have the bittersweet understanding that each day they belong less to us and more to themselves.

That is the theme of a small miracle of a first film from writer/director Charlotte Wells. Tennessee Williams described “The Glass Menagerie” as “a memory play.” “Aftersun” is a memory movie, not just a movie about someone’s memory but a movie about memory itself, presented in a flickering, sometimes kaleidoscopic fashion, present mingled with past, layered with understanding and regret.

Most of the story is through the eyes of Sophie (an astonishing performance by Frankie Corio), and it takes place on a vacation she takes with her father, Callum (an excellent Paul Mescal) at a low-end Turkish resort in the 1990s. Some of it is literally through her eyes as she films with a camcorder. And some of it is through a third-party objective camera, but it only sees and understands what she does.

We may understand a little more. Callum has a cast on his arm, and when Sophie asks him about it, he won’t tell her what happened. She asks about a plan he told her about earlier and he says it’s not happening but is vague about what’s next. He tells her about how much time she has to be anything she wants and we wonder, though he is so young he was mistaken for her brother, if he is worried about how much time he has. At one point, we see him sob. Is it because he misses Sophie? Does he still have feelings for her mother? Or is there something more dire pressing on him?

We come to understand that we are not in that moment; we are in Sophie’s mind as she thinks back on it as an adult, seeing what she was not able to understand at the time. This movie is not about what happens next and what happens next. It is not about the lessons learned or the innocence lost on that vacation. It is a tender poem about how we look back on love and loss, pure cinematic storytelling, and one of the best films of the year.

Parents should know that this film includes some strong language, drinking, sexual references and teen kissing.

Family discussion: What wasn’t Calum telling Sophie? How do you know? Was he a good dad? What do we learn from the glimpse of Sophie as an adult?

If you like this, try: “Eighth Grade” and “Lady Bird”

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