Aftersun (dir. Charlotte Wells, 2022) is a film that takes time to process. On the surface, it's about the circa-1999 package vacation to Turkey of 11-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) and her father Calum (Paul Mescal). Think resort hotel, beach sun and suncreen, karaoke nights, and group excursions to local tourist attractions.
But quickly, there are hints that something is off with Calum. Frankie, age 11, senses it but struggles to understand it. Twenty years later, she reminisces by watching old SD video footage from the vacation, and tries to make sense of what was really going on at the time.
It's difficult to put words on this film, so I won't. The tl;dr is this: you should absolutely watch it, probably twice. Some tips:
Watch at the cinema
There's something special with watching this kind of film at the cinema. Aftersun's score and photography alone are worth it. Also, I'd never seen the small (but packed) 40-people theater at the Wolf Cinema remain so perfectly still during the entire length of a film's credits roll. The tension and intensity only added to the film's perfect, devastating ending.
So: if there's a single film you should catch at the cinema this month, make it Aftersun.
(Pick a small, cosy neighbourhood cinema over a large multiplex. If you're in Berlin, there's surely one of those in your Kiez, or you can come to mine and try Il Kino or Wolf.)
Immediately after seeing the film, I thought it was great. But I wouldn't have agreed with critics like David Ehrlich that it is the best film of 2022. For example, some 2022 releases that I initially preferred were The Menu (dir. Mark Mylod), Triangle of Sadness (dir. Ruben Östlund), or The Banshees of Inisherin (dir. Martin McDonagh)1.
Now though, after some time thinking about the film, talking about it with C, and reading reviews/watching videos/listening to podcasts, I wholeheartedly agree that it's up there with the best of the year2.
I'm not usually one for rewatching films (except years later after forgetting half the plot), but Aftersun will clearly be an exception. The subtlety and slow unraveling of the plot until the last, culminating scene just makes me want to see it all again, with the new perspective that the film's ending provides.
I don't think I'll go back to the cinema. The film is already streaming on MUBI in a number of countries (including the UK) and will be available in Germany in a couple of months. That's when I'll catch it—and I can't wait! I see now that these are basically all black comedies. I think I have a type. ↩ What makes a film "good"? This is one for film studies, but for me (at least in the case of Aftersun) it's about feeling, depth/layers, and subtlety. ↩
I see now that these are basically all black comedies. I think I have a type. ↩
What makes a film "good"? This is one for film studies, but for me (at least in the case of Aftersun) it's about feeling, depth/layers, and subtlety. ↩