Aftersun ★★★★

Paul Mescal is Daddy. 
And, we couldn’t be luckier as filmgoers that he has chosen to take on the parental responsibility. 

There’s a tendency of the most prodigious young actors to often pick roles of an emotional age beyond their own experience. Jennifer Lawrence being a much lauded recent example, this group of artists doesn’t outstay their teen years welcome, but rises to the challenge of meeting pathos with a performance that pushes them to, or beyond, their own years. 

With the arrival of ’”Aftersun,” it’s now safe to place Mescal in that category. 

Certainly there is nothing amiss about playing to one’s own age, with the likes of Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan capturing with elan the essence of their youth. Still, there is a preciousness of being able to see the moment an actor attains an aged sort of wisdom through a particular role. In “Aftersun,” we are privileged enough to witness that change happen, more so, to view it through the humanistic lens of director Charlotte Wells. 

It’s appropriate that this transition of Mescal’s screen persona takes place in a film that so elegantly captures the balance between the passing negligence of youth and the obligatory responsibility of adulthood. Essential to walking the precarious limbo between the two is a sense of self-identity and self-worth, at a time in life when neither could possibly be more in flux. 

So, in “Aftersun,” Mescal, as Calum, the divorced single father of 11-year-old Sophie, focuses outward as he struggles to find his inner peace.

On a vacation with Sophie, he uses a video camera to record her perceiving the world; looking at her, looking at him, thinking he will never be enough for her. 

It’s a period of life that passes in a flash that blinds momentarily, leaving only blemished spots on one’s perception and soul in the time that follows. Eventually,  there is another change, from never enough for the child, to never long enough with them. 
And this passing between those two moments, is the flash from staring straight into Wells’ brilliant “Aftersun.”

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