Paul Mescal somehow imbues each role with endless texture and colour. In Aftersun, which recently screened at Cannes and is due to premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival, the actor tackles the figure of Calum Paterson, a 31-year old Scottish father, with the same depth he brought to Normal People or say, The Lost Daughter. We can joke and call him daddy, but really the truth is whenever Mescal is involved we simply cannot look away.
What is Aftersun about?
Aftersun follows Calum and his eleven-year-old daughter Sophie as they share a summer together in Turkey. The title refers to both Calum's anxious dabbing of his daughter with aftersun lotion after each day spent seaside, and also to the structure of the film, which is told through the eyes of Sophie, now herself aged 31.
Calum, a divorcee, is an attentive father, practices tai chi and given his age, is often mistaken for Sophie's brother. Sophie drinks in his company with the hunger of a child who lives only with her mother. She's precocious, observant and on the cusp of teendom. The film is set in the late 90s, so it's all very nostalgic, from Sophie's Adidas gym shorts to the soundtrack which glistens with R.E.M's "Losing My Religion", "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette and like all good holidays, the Macarena.
Looking back on the holiday with two decades distance, Sophie rethinks her relationship with her father, aided by the MiniDV footage she captured during the trip. There was meaning in the pauses and his subtle mood shifts. Although altogether dreamlike and light, the film calls into question how well we can ever really know the ones we love.
Who is involved in Aftersun?
As mentioned, Paul Mescal leads the film with newcomer Frankie Corio as Sophie. Celia Rowlson-Hall appears as Sophie twenty years on. Heading up the film as both director and screenwriter is the Scottish Charlotte Wells. Meanwhile, Barry Jenkins and A24 had a hand in production – can you tell?
Most of us would gladly sell a sibling to see Paul Mescal in the film, so it will bring you joy to know that you won't have to wait too long. Aftersun will arrive in Australian cinemas from November 18, 2022. See you there.