Director: charlotte wells | Script: charlotte wells | Cast: Paul Mescal (Calum Aaron Patterson), Frankie Corio (Sophie Lesley Patterson), Celia Rowlson-Hall (Sophie Volwassen), ea | Time to play: 102 minutes | Year: 2022
Calum is very good at one thing: being a loving father to Sophie, his growing teenage daughter. What he can’t handle is that he wants to offer her more than circumstances allow. During a deceptive dream vacation under the Turkish sun, the two’s close bond is gradually overshadowed by Calum’s feelings of helplessness and regret. After the sun It’s a film about grief, but it also shows how warm memories can heal open wounds.
Unlimited access to the pool, a luxury lounger and a bracelet for all the goodies. It’s the all-inclusive dream of many millennials, but in After the sun the pretense of a lavish vacation is subtly broken by the mixed memories of the actual main character: Calum’s daughter. The now-adult Sophie recalls with mixed feelings of warmth and melancholy a summer in the Turkish sun, when her father took her to a resort he really couldn’t afford.
Calum is a father of few words and many small gestures. Idealistic as he is, he tries to give his daughter the time of her life, even if it means breaking the resort rules in a transparently disguised way. Calum’s forced tricks feel all the more painful because the brilliant Sophie has long since seen through her charade. The eleven-year-old girl experiences her first summer on the road to adulthood as she watches her father battle her inner demons.
Sophie is empathetic and forgiving. The best is good enough, she tries to make clear, but Calum is so consumed by a feeling of inadequacy that he can no longer embrace the ‘little’ happiness of an impromptu karaoke session or a heartfelt birthday wish. In the discovery phase of her life, Sophie has to keep her father awake, instead of him.
Sophie lives with her divorced mother in everyday life, making vacations for the daughter and father a rarity for both of them. As their stay at the resort draws to its inevitable end, Calum’s ability to control her emotions dwindles. It is to the credit of Paul Mescal (with credit shared by the young Frankie Corio, acting for the first time in a feature film) that several fragile scenes effortlessly retain their believability. The highlight is a publicly awkward karaoke performance in which Calum can’t bring himself to sing along with his daughter.
Mescal shown in the drama series Normal people as he is a star at portraying introverted characters with pent up emotions. More than recommended Normal people Can those repressed emotions enter the perception of the viewers? After the sun put to the test: the text and the explanation of the richly represented sentiments are often omitted. In her directorial debut, Scottish Charlotte Wells leaves room for double sentiments, and therefore for different interpretations.
Ultimately, this open space turns this sensitive coming-of-age drama into an unassuming masterpiece. As captivating as the Christmas imagery is, the film is really a flashback, a chain of memories. By using a cheap video camera, we can see early on how those memories are created. Wells could have distorted those memories, made them hermetic, ‘closed’; instead, the honest question now remains whether Sophie was ever able to fully understand her father.
Just how personal that question is becomes clear when Wells’s semi-autobiographical alter ego appears in the final act, some twenty years after the events we see in the film. These are the memories of the maker, but in After the sun Wells invites us to sympathize with her.