Charlotte Wells

6.7 Aftersun (2022) Links:

Charlotte Wells (Britain, 1987) debuted with Aftersun (2022)

We watch a videocassette as it is rewinded and played. It was made by Sophie, an 11-year-old. The film shows Sophie as she is traveling with her young father, Calum, whose right arm is bandaged. This is clearly a flashback. We don't see who is watching the videocassette and who is reminiscing the flashback. Sophie and Calum stay in a hotel, a vacation in Turkey. We see more scenes from the videocassette: the father is watching the videocassette before falling asleep. (This is someone's flashback, and that someone now has the videocassette). The following morning Sophie uses the public bathrooms and overhears two teenage girls talking about sex with boys. She still makes videotapes of her father. We learn that Calum and Sophie's wife are separated, but they are still friends. Calum does his best to entertain Sophie despite the somnolent routine of the tourist resort. He gets depressed during a diving trip and implies to the boat's owner that he suffers from depression and is surprised he still hasn't killed himself. Sophie plays billiard with older kids who barely tolerate her, and plays videogames with a child of her age, Michael. Sophie knows that Calum doesn't have money. Nonetheless, we see Calum buy a handmade carpet from a specialized store. Sophie sees teenagers kissing passionately. We see the video being rewound to the beginning. Sophie interviews her dad on camera about what he did on his 11th birthday. One night she's melancholy. She plays karaoke by herself but she's a terrible singer. Calum walks back to the hotel room. Sophie watches alone kids getting drunk. An older girl gives her the bracelet that grants her unlimited drinks at the bar Sophie gets lost and Michael finds her and invites her to hang out. Michael kisses her. When she returns to the hotel, dad is fasty asleep and doesn't hear her knocking. She's eventually let in by a caretaker of the building. Suddenly we see two adult women and we hear a baby crying. One of the women is sitting on a couch as if she was watching a video. It's her birthday. We recognize the carpet that Calum bought. This is the woman who's been watching the old videocassette and reminiscing. The following day dad apologizes for being an asshole the previous night. Sophie confesses she kissed Michael. Dad makes her promise she'll always tell him as she grows up. Then we see him crying alone in a bare room, next to postcards addressed to Sophie, and it is not clear when this happens: before, during or after the vacation? Father and daughter take an excursion to some mud baths. She organizes the other tourists and they sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" to Calum as it is his birthday. Dad makes Sophie dance. We see flickering black-and-white images of the adult woman dancing with him. The cassette rewinds. We now see Sophie at the airport, bound for her mom. This time he's the one who operates the the videocamera. The cassette stops. We are back in the apartment with the rug. Now there's no doubt that the adult woman was the one watching the video. The last scene shows Calum turning off the videocamera and leaving, after Sophie has boarded the plane. We are not told what happened to him, and whether the adult woman is indeed Sophie, and why she's watching it.

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