In theaters since Wednesday, “Aftersun” traces the relationship between a daughter and her father over the course of a summer. Rewarded at the Cannes and Deauville festivals, this feature film was nominated for the Oscars for the interpretation of its main actor.
Aftersun by Charlotte Wells
With Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall…
What is it about ? With melancholy, Sophie recalls the summer holidays spent with her father twenty years earlier: the moments of shared joy, their complicity, sometimes their disagreements. She also thinks back to what hovered above those precious moments: the deaf and invisible threat of dying happiness. She then tries to search among these memories for answers to the question that has obsessed her for so many years: who really was this man she felt she didn’t know?
Oscar-nominated Paul Mescal
The actor was considered very early for the role of Calum. Initially, he was not available but he was finally able to read the script and speak with the director: “Paul immediately had empathy for Calum. I found his performance in the series Normal People very moving and accomplished. It’s funny because since then a lot of people have been drawing parallels between these two characters in details that I hadn’t thought of.”
A long-standing project
Charlotte Wells started working on Aftersun when she was in film school. At that time, she saw films like Alice in the cities and La Barbe à papa, which talk about childhood and the father-daughter relationship: “I had a very conventional view of my film, its structure, its plot, in the sense that the relationship was the main source of tension.”
She continued to work on the film while making short films. Years later, she wrote the film very quickly, in ten days: “I didn’t foresee the turn it would take. I spent so many years describing my own memories, learning why it was so necessary for me to make this film, wondering about my relationship with my father, about this period of my life that I had never dared to question before… This film has become more and more personal.”
Aftersun is Charlotte Wells’ feature debut. It was the experience of going to the cinema, both as a personal and social experience, that made him want to make films, more than the discovery of a particular film. “On the other hand, when I entered film school, in production, I was very interested intellectually. At that time, I saw a lot of female filmmakers like Claire Dennis, Kelly Reichardt. I didn’t specifically watch those movies because they were women’s movies, but looking back I think there was something very inspiring to watch their work.”
A striking photograph
During the preparation, the director searched through family albums and found a photo of her and her father in southern Spain, where they had gone on vacation when she was around 5 years old.
“There was a very beautiful woman behind me. I wondered then what could have been the real subject of this photo. Initially, it was the story of a father and his daughter on vacation and how the father found the balance between being a father and a young man at the same time. But that evolved a lot. It ended up becoming a quest for memories, a search for our involvement in looking for answers in the past that ‘we may never find’she explains.
Frankie Corio, who plays Sophie, was found after a long casting and among nearly 800 children. She had sent several videos but it was when she met Charlotte Wells that she stood out.
The director remembers: “She was able to instantly release an emotion that she did not feel and she had the power to make everything disappear once the exercise was over. She was full of energy and open to this adventure. It was important to me that she looks like a child, I didn’t want an 11-year-old girl who already looked like an adult but someone who was still a little clumsy and very childish.”