Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells and Irish actor Paul Mescal sit down to discuss ‘Aftersun’ and their experiences in with regard to making the movie and taking it across the globe
A young father, Calum Paterson [Paul Mescal], and his 11-year-old daughter Sophie Patterson [Frankie Corio], go on a one-week holiday to a Turkish resort. Set in the late 1990s, time freezes for both Calum and Sophie when they are together. Over the course of the trip, the father and daughter learn and discover what is known and common, and what is unknown and uncommon between them. They create memories that would last for a lifetime. Memories that Sophie tries to capture in real-time by filming her father on a camera.
Much later in her life, when she is at a crossroads, perhaps at the same age as Calum when they went on a vacation, Sophie revisits the memory of her father to understand him and her own feelings better. An autobiographical fiction, the movie is seen through the perspective of a young Sophie, and there is a secondary point of view we get through the adult Sophie.
Aftersun received a two-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, where it also won a jury prize last year. Recalling the memorable moment, Charlotte Wells has a tongue-in-cheek response: “I was just so confused as to why people weren’t leaving. And what was taking them so long to leave the cinema,” she laughs. “It really took a moment to understand what was happening.”
Connecting over a video call from London, where Aftersun was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival in October 2022, Wells and Mescal agree that the movie just grew on the audience with which they watched at Cannes. “There is something about sharing a movie with an audience for the first time and getting the desired response. It’s deeply satisfying,” says Mescal.
Excerpts from an edited interview:
Charlotte: It was a continuation of sorts, to be honest. I conceived this movie right after finishing that short film, and before I made two other shorts. And I’ve just been steadily working on it [ Aftersun] since then, while pursuing other things and making short films.
Now that it has been going on for a while, I don’t remember the exact starting point. But there were lots of moments of inspiration that fed into the early idea: a young father and daughter on a holiday. They are young enough to be mistaken as siblings. Over the course of writing, I think it became more personal and this process of reflecting on memories became increasingly interwoven into the script.