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Home > Why Aftersun (2022) Is An Emotionally Riveting Summer Movie

Why Aftersun (2022) Is An Emotionally Riveting Summer Movie

Your Next Summer Watch Awaits In Charlotte Wells’ 2022 Drama "Aftersun"

TW: Aftersun contains mentions of Suicide

The Best Multifaceted Summer Movie? 

Charlotte Wells’ 2022 film Aftersun is a quiet look into the last summer vacation that Sophie (Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson Hall) takes with her father, Callum (Paul Mescal), and Sophie’s reflection on it years later. Aftersun’s uniqueness comes from the way that Wells’ direction blends nostalgia, longing, youth, and hope to make a movie fit for a perfect summer day. 

Summertime Nostalgia and Longing

Summertime is naturally fleeting and comes with an inherent sense of longing. The days are long but seem to always end before their time is up, as people cling to those tender moments with their friends, or the simple solitude in the waning sun. Everyone is chasing that summer day from way back when; how it felt to hold someone’s hand for a while, the friend from summer camp’s tiny red sunglasses, the sound of the street lights flickering on after riding your bike for too long. Looking back on these distinct moments can be painful, they can be beautiful, they can be intense, and they can be foggy. “Summertime” is so much more than just a season, it’s a feeling you can reach out to, relate to, and look back upon. In everyone, there is a longing for some sense of the summer, something they can try and get back. 

We all have these beautiful, personal moments of the summer, as does Sophie. One of the things Charlotte Wells does that is so spectacular in this film is she makes Sophie and Calum’s summertime experience together universal. We may not have the same experiences as them, no, but what we do have are those feelings of nostalgia and longing for the summer that once was, for the summer we can’t get back. Wells makes her film tangible for the audience, and the way that Sophie remembers is so tangible. The books on the shelf in their hotel room, the hand of the boy who she kissed by the pool, her dad’s distinct shadowy figure as they sang him happy birthday. Another beautiful aspect of nostalgia for this film is the way it looks. The heavy, grainy texture adds to the feelings of nostalgia and longing. This fantastic use of texture over the film makes the scenes we watch feel like a memory; it looks similar to the digital video camera that Sophie and Calum use throughout the film, and it naturally makes the audience feel a sense of nostalgia while watching. Wells encapsulates those lost summer moments we wish we could all get back by making them so personal, and so distinct, that they become universal while viewing. 

Youthful Summer

Youthfulness and how we come of age have always been tied to summertime. Childhood discovery and experience happen on those long summer days, boring or not. It’s a time when neither school teachers nor parents can keep youthful exuberance locked away in a classroom or the child’s bedroom. Sophie’s summer is one in which she grows immensely through her experiences in Turkey. She learns more about herself in the moments where she talks about her feelings of depression with her father, when she asks about love, or when she sees how teenagers and boys and girls interact. She also begins to unlock her father, slowly, asking him about his hopes and dreams. She learns more about Calum and begins to see him as such, and not just “dad” which is something most children eventually discover within their parents. 

Summer as a New Beginning

Aftersun, at its core, is a film brimming with hope. Sophie hopes to connect with her father again, as Calum does with her. After splitting with Sophie’s mother, Calum has moved to London in hopes to start anew, unfortunately leaving Sophie in Scotland. Through Paul Mescal’s performance as Calum which earned him an Oscar nomination in 2022, it is clear he desires to rekindle his relationship with his daughter. He puts on a brave face for his daughter, as he struggles through their trip with his financial inadequacies and inability to provide the life he wants for Sophie. He tries his best to hide his deep seeded anger and frustration at this (Paul Mescal plays this especially well), but an older Sophie looking back can see clearly the depression her father goes through that summer. It’s incredibly sad because all Sophie wants him to know and all that the audience wants him to know is that he is enough. 

We, much like Sophie, hope for Calum to find a little bit of peace in his darkness with his daughter. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Calum refuses to sing on stage with Sophie, so she sings alone. When she comes back, he offers to pay for singing lessons for her if she wants, to which she responds “You don’t have to do that… offering to pay for something when you don’t have the money”. It’s harsh to Calum, but Sophie means it literally. He does not have to, he could have just sang with her and that would’ve been worth more than anything he could buy her. These tough experiences and losses of hope are very hurtful realizations that happen to us all, but we, as Calum and Sophie do, learn from them. 

Summertime Joy

With all of the heartbreak and sadness in this movie, there is a lot of beauty and joy in the summer vacation that Sophie and Calum spend together. While laying down by the pool together, Sophie reflects on the fact that even though they aren’t always together, she “Thinks it’s nice that (they) can always share the same sky”. While sad that they can’t be together, in the future or during her childhood, Sophie’s reflection brings them both comfort in the moment. This moment in the film represents the best part about our own summer times, those small quiet moments you share with the people you love. 

Best Bittersweet Summer Choice

The most beloved summertime films such as Dazed and Confused, Stand by Me, and Moonrise Kingdom are wonderful choices to watch on a summer day. But what makes Aftersun perfect for the summer, is the combination of the fun, the nostalgia, the longing, the experience, and the memory. Paired with Charlotte Wells’ brilliant balance she creates the joys of summer held with the grief and heaviness of life at times. The movies listed above are fun, heartfelt, thoughtful, and nostalgic, without a doubt. But they don’t quite combine the pathos with the sheer fun, adventure, and growth of summertime. That’s what makes Aftersun the perfect bittersweet summer movie. 

Aftersun can currently be streamed on Apple TV as well as Prime Video. Catch it now, and create summer memories with the ones you hold dear! 

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Source: Dead Talk Live

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Leonard studied English at Loyola Marymount University where his short story "Hero in Blue" was published in the 2022 edition of LA Miscellany. He hopes to one day write and direct his own feature films.