Aftersun ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I kept waiting for something drastic. I thought the film was building towards something explosive. I thought the father might walk out and never come back. I thought he might die and that's why the need to recollect, the need to see in between the lines, to see what wasn't explicitly expressed. I thought we'd get an answer, but we don't. We know he's gone, but why or how is never explained. The two go back home from the vacation and there's a nice intercut shot of the daughter in the present pointing a camera at the film's camera and the father in the past doing the same until he puts his camera in a bag and walks out of the door. For a second I thought "that's where it ends?" because I felt like it wasn't enough, but it was.

I took a moment to process my confusion and then I mentally rewound the film and realized that the journey wasn't about culminating with the dramatic event, the event had already happened. The story was instead completely about the need to understand. The meaning of the film was in all the small moments, but I was too busy expecting something big to appreciate the incredibly slight nature of the film.

The meaning is where film's usually don't bother seeking meaning. Wanting to look inside a father through a child's eyes in order to attempt to understand what makes him tick isn't usually a significant enough of a story to be worth exploring, but it is. I'm in tears typing this because the film truly got under my skin in the careful and sensitive way it explores the relationship between the father and the daughter. The care and love present in the film is overwhelming.

The story sees the father as someone who loves his daughter deeply, but he's struggling. He became a father too early and he doesn't feel like he can offer things he believes she should have and yet he doesn't even realize that it's all pressure he's unnecessarily putting on himself. In fact it's the pressure he's putting on himself which makes her frustrated. She remarks to him when he asks her if she wants singing lessons that she knows he doesn't have the money.

It's a quietly crushing moment because we know how he feels hearing that, but she didn't mean anything bad by it. She's just expressing frustration over what she knows is an empty promise from experience. She doesn't understand how brutal of a comment it is because she doesn't know that he's beating himself up for not being able to give her more because how could she, she's just a kid. He wants to give her the world and the tragedy of it all of course is that she doesn't want the world, she just wants a dad and he can't see that's all he needs to be because of his likely depression.

It's a moment the adult her now reflects on because she's now realizing what it spoke to when it comes to his underneath. She didn't understand what happened then, but she does understand it now. The memory is one of the more powerful moments in the film and it's all because of how slight it is. How it puts his internal turmoil on the center stage, without calling too much attention to it. It feels big in its smallness and the film is filled with moments like it.

The restraint all around is the films biggest strength as the small moments never feel like you have to stop and process them. They happen and they settle in and because the film is devoid of massive dramatic beats and since the film is heavy on the happiness the two experienced together, it allows the melancholic undercurrent to shine through in more of a stark manner. It's the type of effort, which will pierce through whatever emotional shield you have up and leave you feeling vulnerable to the immense effect the film holds.

If you want more thoughts, read my buddy Stephen's review.

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