Director: Charlotte Wells
Charlotte Wells went to the school of Terrence Malick and it shows, hard. She’s an amateur film director, this is her first feature, she can be forgiven for leaning on what came before, but embracing that level of nothing-happens-except-a-shot-of-a-doorway is maddening, and it’s not new. We’ve been bored by this before and we will be bored by this again; don’t add to the ennui because you think this style feels like art; it doesn’t, it feels like pretension.
Sophie recalls a vacation in which she and her dad Calum spent a lovely holiday together in Turkey; on the beach, at the pool, lounging around, just being together. Life has moved on now, but that summer stands out as something impactful and special, when she was 11 years old and the world was wide open to possibility. Through footage of the trip and filling in the gaps with her own remembrance, Sophie feels the joy of those days once again, a joy she didn’t understand then and will never get back.
Most of the high praise I’m hearing about Aftersun is directed toward Paul Mescal, not Charlotte Wells, and that’s a little more understandable; in his moments he was quite good. Even the little girl was good, and I’m hard on child actors, but she was very interesting and felt very real (this was her first movie). But the problem is they were barely even called upon to act; most of the movie was silence and introspection, which I don’t mind, but we need something to be thoughtful about while we’re sitting there doing nothing and the movie isn’t saying a goddam thing. That’s the issue with Terrence Malick as well, his movies are so boring you couldn’t care less what “deep” points he’s trying to make. Wells falls into the same trap, creates something so mind-numbing that I’d simply rather not watch, and then falls back on clever camera shots like that will save the day. With some critics, it does, because they are gluts for the visual, they wouldn’t know acting if it screamed in their faces. But I want more, most audiences want more, and this movie didn’t have it to give; it’s only something personal and pretty, it’s not a meaningful, engaging, relatable film.
My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆