REVIEW: Finely crafted ‘Aftersun’ never hooks one in

Sometimes a movie comes along that seems to do all the right things and still never hits the right notes. That’s the unfortunate case with “Aftersun.”

Director Charlotte Wells makes her feature film debut with “Aftersun,” which largely follows a young girl named Sophie (Frankie Corio) who’s on vacation with her father Calum (Paul Mescal). The film showcases how Calum was a good, tentative father, but also seemed distant at times.

The audience eventually learns that the vacation is a collection of Sophie’s memories, and that she has been going over old home movies to reflect on what’s happened in her life since the holiday.

“Aftersun” is a film full of tender, heartfelt moments between a father and daughter that explores multiple facets of a relationship between parent and child. As the film goes on, it becomes clear that while Calum is a caring father, he’s also dealing with his own personal struggles that he’s trying to keep under wraps.

Children know when something is wrong with their parents, even if they don’t know exactly what the problem is. The film, from Sophie’s perspective, shows how kids can pick up on that, but may not understand the depths of what’s going on until they’re older. It’s a concept that’s relatable and Wells captures all of this with genuine sincerity.

Yet the film just never manages to grip a viewer like one would hope. It just sort of meanders along, and even though an audience can pick up what the film’s trying to do, it can be hard to really connect.

Courtesy A24.

Simply put, the film just becomes boring after a while. It isn’t without meaning, but an emotional connection is never truly built, making the scenes between the two lead characters become a bit stale to watch.

This is despite a really good performance from Mescal. His character is an affectionate, good-hearted father who at times seems to be lacking in passion for life, and Mescal succeeds in the portrayal.

Corio, who makes her acting debut, is quite impressive onscreen. She works well on screen with Mescal and also in moments where the character is on her own. Corio is believable on screen throughout, and there are hints through her performance that Sophie senses something may be wrong with her father.

“Aftersun” is also a film with plenty of artistry involved. It has a distinct style and identity thanks to how it looks visually. There’s a moment later in the film where the camera centers on a Polaroid photo developing as a conversation is taking place, and it’s unique moments like that which give the movie a flair.

However, for as good as the film looks and as well the movie was acted, it just couldn’t manage to draw a person in. The film has positives, yet there was always a degree of separation between the characters and the viewer, leaving the experience somewhat cold. 3 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Finely crafted ‘Aftersun’ never hooks one in”

    1. Yeah I guess I just needed more. It’s too bad because it’s clear this was a project the director really cared about. I am still interested in what she will direct next, because I think she’s quite artistic.


  1. Glad I’m not the only one feeling underwhelmed by this one. I didn’t think it was particularly well-directed and Mescal is kinda overrated. I’m actually more impressed by Frankie Corio here.


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