For a somewhat dangerous exercise, we are being exposed to many works of autofiction in recent times. Just last year we had two established directors like James Gray (‘Armageddon Time’) and Steven Spielberg (‘The Fabelmans’) taking that look at their childhood to try to fit some pieces together. The first to observe the cracks of meritocracy and the American dream, the second to explore family tragedies and the dark side of his superpower for the cinema.
However, both exercises fall short (at least for me) for trying too hard to make the loose pieces of their memories fit into the discourse they want to trace, while neglecting certain aspects. The best autofiction work (although its creator wants to put all possible quotation marks around that term) that we could see last year was delivered by a young debuting director in an outstanding gem called ‘Aftersun’.
Memories in the form of polaroids
The British Charlotte Wells takes us through a complex walk through memory and the parent-child connection, focusing the action on a summer vacation of an 11-year-old girl (Frankie Corio) in the company of her father (Paul Mescal), with occasional escapes towards the adult version of said girl who is newly released in parenthood. This clearly establishes the searching and even melancholic nature of the images of the resort in Turkey.
Wells takes a series of magnificent and interesting decisions from the visual to go counting the strange barriers between a father and a daughter who, unequivocally, love each other, although everything is more complex than it appears. From images captured from an intelligent staging to present their emotional states to that general photograph that seems to tint totally sunny places with clouds.
The moments that he decides to capture are as simple as enlightening. The small details that Mescal’s character shares about his own childhood, about what he hopes to do in the future, or how he distances himself from a game of ball in the pool or a night of karaoke, are amazing. revealing. And yet, Wells is careful not to be completely explicit with that character, trying to maintain a hazy aura like a half-developed Polaroid photo.
‘Aftersun’: a beautiful film full of sadness
That way of trying to find meaning in those faded memories to be able to find how to apply it to his present gives an extraordinary dimension to such a small story. It ends up rising thanks to an impressive Mescalwho has perfectly grasped the measure of the character and never manipulates him or endows him with very showy gestures.
It is the kind of acting “for the inside” that is excellent when done well and that should have that Oscar Award that he opted for over more showy exercises (when not faranduleros). Just her dance on the final sequence (one of the most brilliant of the year) It already makes you touch the sky.
The movie is already available streaming through the MUBI platform, after a remarkable passage in cinemas for the small dimension that it has. It should not surprise once seen, since it is the kind of movie you need to share with others once you have contemplated and been moved by every fiber of your body. Because you can make a beautiful film charged with sadness, just as you can film a beach in Turkey in full sun as if dark clouds were lurking.
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