Wherever You Go, There You Are
Aftersun is a modern masterpiece
The biggest problem with making a year-end top five before the year is over is that I inevitably watch a film that would have made the list after I already sent the list out. Last year, that was definitely the case with Charlotte Wells' Aftersun, a film that easily would have topped my top five of 2022 The film is quietly beautiful and subtly heartbreaking, with two incredible performances and surprisingly confident direction from a first-time filmmaker.
Thirty-one-year-old Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) is having doubts about herself. She has a newborn baby with her partner and the stress of parenthood is weighing down on her. This inspires her to look up old MiniDV footage from 20 years ago when she (now played by Frankie Corio) was on vacation with her father (Paul Mescal giving the performance of his life). As we flash back to that time we, along with Sophie, come to a newfound understanding of her father that she never felt before.
Wells does an admirable job of merging past and present and she shoots the vacation scenes in a soft, naturalistic style reminiscent of the films of Eric Rohmer. Mescal gives us a fully realized character, subtly portraying a depressed man trying hard to keep it together for the sake of his daughter. The performance thankfully (blissfully) never succumbs to melodramatic excess. We slowly learn that Sophie's father is not with her anymore, but Wells never reveals why. She simply lets the emotions wash over you until the film's bittersweet finale. A finale that (if you're lucky enough) may make you want to call your parents and remind them how much you love them.
Aftersun will be playing on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. at Kellar's Modern Magic and Comedy Club as part of their Movie Magic series, in partnership with the Film Society of NWPA
Written and directed by Charlotte Wells // Starring Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Sally Messham, Ayse Park, Sophia Lamanova, Brooklyn Toulson, Spike Fearn, Harry Perdios, and Frank Corio // 102 minutes // A24 // Rated R