In Aftersun the sun burns and does not mend

Among the more or less prestigious faces of the evening of self-celebration of Hollywood, slipped that of a quasi-unknown outside the British borders. Colin Farrell, Austin Butler, Bill Nighy, Brendan Fraser and… a certain Paul Mescal. At 26, the Irishman, revealed by the series Normal People – which nevertheless earned him a Bafta (the Caesars across the Channel) – is now in the running for an Oscar, best actor category. If he does not leave favorite, this surprise nomination rewards above all a sacred number, contrary to what an industry always more fond of performance offers. In aftersun, jewel signed Charlotte Wells, it knows how to be soft, nuanced and subtle where others would have been honeyed, monotonous and caricatural. It is like a film that never highlights its effects, and of which it is far from being the only asset. This is evidenced by the cascade of awards received at the best festivals, including Deauville (grand prize and audience prize) and Critics’ Week (French Touch jury prize).

A luminous film that assumes its shadow areas

It all starts on a television. Curtains yellowed by time, an unmade bed and laughter. Grainy and trembling, the image refers to a bluish past, that of the end of the 1990s. A moment stolen from his father, Calum (Paul Mescal), by his daughter Julie (Frankie Corio), in some room of a club hotel just as unremarkable. The joy has not yet disappeared but we feel it fragile. In front of the small screen, Julie, years and more misfortunes, dissects these recorded memories. A question to find the missing pieces to her puzzle: how could she not see anything?

On the opposite side, the banality of a week’s vacation under the Turkish sun. The sea, billiards, dodger. The father, the daughter, a duo of the most complicit. Camcorder systematically at the end of the arm (the other being plastered), Calum is a dad-buddy more buddy than dad. And Julie, this child-adult more adult than child. He, good-natured, takes everything in derision, as if to hide the deep malaise that gnaws at him. She, from the height of her 11 years, is at this age where one wants to grow up to look like the big ones who roll their skates. On the face side, melancholy devours everything that the father’s depression has not already ravaged. How to mourn? How to get rid of guilt? Where to find the answers?

The Scottish Charlotte Wells, who is delivering her first feature here, skilfully alternates between the two sides of her mysterious play, snippet after snippet, without worrying about chronology or narration. His pointillism carries everything away, with a modest grace. And his aftersun to emerge from the miracle at this gloomy start to the year. Like the Somewhere, by Sofia Coppola (2010), with whom the filiation is obvious, he is one of those solar films that assume their shadowy areas. From there is born a sublime work on emotional contamination where the sadness of one will end, sooner or later and without warning, by reflecting on the other.

We would love to give thanks to the author of this article for this amazing material

In Aftersun the sun burns and does not mend