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Telluride Film Review: ‘Aftersun’ is a Tender Look at How We Remember Our Loved Ones

Memories define us, to one degree or another. How we remember events in the past, both good and bad, loom large. Do you see history with rose colored glasses? Is it always the negative? Perhaps both? Aftersun is the tale of one woman looking back on a seminal memory in order to try and figure out the man who meant the most to her. It’s an ambitious subject for a film, especially from a first-timer, but this movie works more than it doesn’t. It may be one of the lesser titles at the Telluride Film Festival, at least for me, but that speaks to high quality elsewhere as opposed to anything lacking here.

Aftersun has a number of things to say about memory, father/daughter relationships, and how we remember our loved ones. Not everything lands, but there’s never a moment where you don’t realize that this is a singular and specific vision being executed. Even when you’re left a bit adrift in the somewhat padded running time, it’s hard not to appreciate what’s been doing by the filmmaker.


Preteen Sophie (Frankie Corio) and her young father Calum (Paul Mescal) are at a Turkish rest for a summer holiday. The former is a bit of a tomboy, while the latter is mistaken for her older brother, with him only being about 30. Sophie is curious about the world and on the way to being a woman, which both concerns and also makes her dad proud. Calum is hiding some depression, but is doing his best as a single father without all of the means in this world.

Before long, it becomes clear that this is a mix of the real and the imagined. Sophie as an adult (Celia Rowlson-Hall) is reflecting on the holiday she took with her father twenty years ago. In trying to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t, she attempts to fill in the blanks, with the film representing that attempt.


The duo of Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal are the highlights here. Corio is a newcomer but should have a major career ahead of her. She’s always observing and inquisitive, echoing the woman she’ll eventually become. Plenty is left unsaid, but her watchful gaze says a ton. As for Mescal, it’s a role that sometimes feels in the background, but the slight air of mystery is intentional. Their chemistry is also terrific, making for a complex yet loving relationship that you’re keen to observe. The small cast also includes Kayleigh Coleman and Harry Perdios, in addition to the aforementioned Celia Rowlson-Hall, but Corio and Mescal walk away with the movie.

Filmmaker Charlotte Wells clearly cares about this story in a truly deep way. Her observant direction often makes us a fly on the wall to these memories. The screenplay, however, could have had a bit more meat on its bones, just like the pacing could have been a bit tighter. Her casting of Corio and Mescal, however, goes a long way, though some individual scenes have a haunting quality to it all just because of what is being said or unsaid. Even with some issues, Wells ends things in Aftersun on a poignant moment that isn’t easily shaken.

Aftersun ended up working for me because of how good Corio and Mescal are. Wells’ talents are evident, but I’m almost more eager to see what she does next. As one of the smaller titles at Telluride, and likely in general this year, it will still manage to leave a mark on some when A24 puts this one out in a few months.

SCORE: ★★★


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Written by Joey Magidson

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