A Father – Daughter Story: Aftersun

One of the best movies of the last year, young director’s Charlotte Wells will be screened on MUBI on January 6th.

A father-daughter at dinner at a blue-covered white table in a holiday village in Muğla, and a Candan Erçetin song playing in the background, Gamsız Hayat (Careless Life)… A scene, a song, or an old photograph that unexpectedly emerges from the bottom of a drawer, how many emotions? Can it suddenly wake you up? Aftersun, which entered our lives with this dinner scene, which is very popular on social media, will be screened on MUBI on January 6 after special screenings in some cinemas of the city. The film brings to the screen the two weeks spent by the father-daughter, who took a summer vacation in Muğla towards the end of the 90s, after years, through the filter of the girl’s memory. Aftersun also draws attention as the first feature film of young director Charlotte Wells, which has made its name known worldwide.

Like many people, I was under the influence of the scene with Candan Erçetin, whom I mentioned at the beginning of the article, and while humming the song, I think of an İlhan İrem song that would be perfect for Aftersun: Kızım İçin (For My Daughter). Rumor has it that, İlhan İrem wrote this song one night, influenced by Aysel Gürel’s story of her experiences with her daughter during the divorce process. The reason why Aftersun reminds me of this song, which drags everyone who watches into different emotions in their own memory and world, is that one of the cruxes of the story is the separation of the parents of the little girl Sophie. That’s exactly why Sophie (Francesca Corio) and her father Claum (Paul Mescal) take a summer vacation to spend time together.

Wells describes her film as follows: “Remembering a past memory and trying to remember how that moment made you feel brings with it a whole new feeling. (…) The word longing in Turkish, which is a language that is very rich in vocabulary and difficult to translate into English, consists of the meanings of longing, love and loss. In that context, it’s a very appropriate word to describe the emotion of the movie.” In the movie, we embark on a journey from the memory of Sophie, who has turned thirty-first and is now a parent herself, to the two-week holiday she and her father spent in Muğla. With payphones, a low-budget boutique hotel and other details caught in the frame, we understand that we are in the summer of the late 90s. Although we often see Sophie recording what she does with her father with a handheld camera in the movie, the film does not form the basis of camera recordings or flashbacks: We watch what Sophie records on the small camera in her mind and how these images are remembered years later.

Even if Aftersun sometimes turns to Sophie’s adulthood, it processes its story like water finding its own way. In the film, we see not only the bond that the little girl establishes with her father, but also the sweet excitement of Sophie at this age when she is preparing to step into puberty, and Calum’s mental problems, which we may not fully understand, but we sense. The fact that Calum, who is still in his early thirties, becomes a father at a very early age is one of the mysterious aspects of the story.

Flowing from Sophie’s window, the film rarely includes scenes with Calum without Sophie in its frame. It is precisely in these scenes that we realize that Sophie not only remembers what she recorded on the small camera in her mind, but also looks at her father as an adult and reconstructs her memory. Sophie and Calum’s hands meeting at the anchors of a boat against the blue waters of the sun-shining Aegean are just one of the simple and fascinating shots captured by the film.

Aftersun, shot by Wells based on a summer vacation he spent with her father, is not an autobiography of the director, but a film that seeks to remember the past and navigates the shores of memory in a plain language. On a birthday, Sophie goes back to her last summer vacation with her father, reliving the memories shaped by her memory. At the back, the atmosphere of the 90s, the sparkling waters of the Aegean, dinners on wooden tables covered with blue fabrics, and Candan Erçetin’s voice… Aftersun, which evokes different emotions in everyone who watches it, is beautiful to everyone.

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