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#TIFF22 Review: Aftersun (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 16, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

Paul Mescal, the breakout star of the Irish miniseries Normal People, delivers a poignant performance in the film Aftersun as a young father on vacation in Turkey. Calum (Mescal) is on holiday with his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio). She is at that age where she is starting to be embarrassed by her dad but also inquisitively films him with her camcorder (her grainy home video footage opens the film) and asks questions about his own childhood.

They are staying at a resort, the sort of place that delivers everything you want from waterslides to karaoke right at your fingertips, but you can easily start to feel trapped in after a few days, a sense that slowly starts to creep in. This is a deeply personal feature debut for writer-director Charlotte Wells, with elements of the story based on her own father and childhood memories. At times the film recalls Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere with its patiently observed father-daughter story, moving at a relaxed pace that allows for many moments to linger and have a lasting impact.

The story is really about memory and how our perception of our parents, and our ability to view them as wholly human with their own emotional needs, changes as we grow up, and it does provide an emotional narrative through-line. That said, Wells works in some flashes to present day that didn’t quite work for me, and at times it feels like she is trying a little too hard to insert herself into the story. I understand what Wells is going for from an artistic perspective, but the scenes also take away a bit from the naturalism of the film.

The film predominantly works thanks to the strength of its completely believable performances. At the centre of it is Mescal’s sensitive and moving portrayal of a man in the throes of depression who is trying to hold it together for his daughter. He is matched by engaging work from newcomer Corio, who holds her own in dramatic scenes while bringing a curious, childlike nature to her character.

Public Screenings:

Monday, September 12th – 6:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Tuesday, September 13th – 3:15 PM at Scotiabank 13

Saturday, September 17th – 12:15 PM at Scotiabank 10

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