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  • Writer's pictureEmilio Vazquez Reyes

AFTERSUN and the beauty of the mundane

The current state that I'm in with my original work is waiting for other people to get back to me. My producer, my mentor, and some investors. In these areas where I have to wait for people to get back to me, I made mood boards of my project to begin visualizing my story and properly prepare the mood before I step foot on set. As I was beginning to complete the mood board, I noticed one still on google images that stuck with me. It was a still medium close-up of a TV, with a father talking to his daughter in the reflection. The still belonged to Aftersun, which was a film I had heard quite a bit about. Out of curiosity and intrigue, I gave it a watch. This film came at the perfect time, as it was the exact film I was looking for to draw inspiration from. Although every film I watch can offer me a lesson in its unique way, this film truly helped in advancing my ways of watching, analyzing, and creating movies.

Aftersun is an A24 coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Charlotte Wells and was released last year. Set in the early 2000s, the film follows Frankie, an 11-year-old girl on vacation with Calum, her father at a Turkish resort on the eve of his 31st birthday. It is implied that Calum committed suicide and the film is told from the perspective of Frankie as an adult, who tries to piece together the father she never truly knew. Throughout the film, Calum shows frequent signs of depression through Paul Mescal's subtle and humanistic performance. However, thanks to Wells's masterfully minimalistic directing style, we are never shown much of Calum's depression, only the occasional erratic demeanor, tense facial expressions, uncomfortable body language, and behavioral apprehensions. By restricting the audience to observe from afar, thanks to careful editing, distant cinematography, and nuanced performances, we are put into Frankie's perspective and forced to put the pieces of figuring out Calum's depression and, as a result, feel her pain and confusion. Peppered throughout the film are shots of Frankie's older self in a rave, desperately trying to get closer to her 31-year-old father who gets further and further away from her. This all culminates in the climax, where older Frankie confronts her father at the rave, who disappears into a black void. Simultaneously, this scene is intercut with 12-year-old Frankie having her last dance with her father at the resort. These examples of restraining the audience's knowledge to know just as much about Calum as Frankie does contributes to the film's heartbreaking theme of childhood ignorance and realizing your childhood was not as glamorous upon reflection as an adult. Furthermore, the structure of the film is free-flowing, letting scenes skip across time with no coherent outline that resembles a hero's journey. Instead, this makes the film feel less like a grand journey of self-discovery and more like life itself, since the order of events makes scenes feel like separate days that begin to blend together as the malaise of depression takes a hold of the characters, and eventually the audience itself.

After watching and analyzing Aftersun, I was able to get reinspired for my original product since both films are immensely similar in story, structure, and thematic elements. My film follows a younger version of myself witnessing the slow deterioration of his parent relationship and the increasing threat of poverty plaguing my family. Borrowing cinematography, editing, and directing techniques that Aftertsun introduced me to would help me on set and in post-production effectively presenting the difficult-to-portray themes of immigration, family relationships, and childhood innocence. My next steps moving forward would be to research and read interviews with Charlotte Wells and maybe even reach out to one of the crew members to ask them questions about how the set was organized and arranged. As for the next steps involving my original work, I plan on speaking to more investors about financing the film, having another meeting with my producer and discussing potential locations, and scheduling another meeting with my mentor on directing advice and connections. There's only so much that watching films can get you.

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