A slice of feel-good Scottish humour comes to Cannes with Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun, a dizzyingly euphoric and deeply moving father-daughter story starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio in her screen debut. Set in a sunny Turkish holiday resort, Wells’s feature begins with an (unseen) adult Sophie watching a home video of her younger self (Cario) and her father (Mescal) on holiday when she was 11. These images kickstart Sophie’s memories as she looks back over those sunny days with her father.
Mescal and Cario are a joyous combination; the pair’s onscreen bond is irresistibly delightful. Mescal’s roguish charm perfectly bounces off Cario’s youthfulness to create an appealing and authentic familial bond that is paramount to this film’s overwhelming success. Wells has likewise captured the spirit and magic of a family getaway from their happy highs, were freedom and fun reign above all else, to those holiday arguments that threaten to ruin the entire trip. Aftersun is like watching somebody else’s old family holiday videos – in the best possible way.
Wells’s script is also incredibly funny. Cairo is an unstoppable ball of energy who never fails to delight. Sophie is a young girl having the time of her life, and it’s through Cario’s performance that viewers can experience her childhood excitement. Likewise, Mescal brings plenty of vitality to the project too. He’s the sometimes-embarrassing father who just wants his daughter to have the best experience possible. Together, the duo make for perfect lighthearted escapism.
However, there’s more going on under the surface here than a found-footage family flick. Sophie remembers that her dad was going through a period of melancholia during this time. And though she couldn’t understand what he was going through then, her adult self fills in these gaps with what she imagines him to have been feeling. Amid a divorce, an injury and flashes of his drug-induced youth, Wells scatters droplets of information about his character in a manner that builds to a heart-wrenching celebration of fatherhood.
Aftersun is a flawless debut from the Scottish filmmaker. What she does next will be of great interest.
Aftersun does not have a UK release date yet.
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