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Laramie Movie Scope: Aftersun

Living pains and growing pains

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 2, 2023 – This is one of those annoying art films that moves super slow, with a lot of lingering static camera shots. It also features a lot of ambiguous scenes and images, enabling the viewer to interpret it in any number of different ways.

I almost gave up trying to watch this frustrating movie, but finally decided to stick it out to the bitter end when I discovered a welcome absence of noble suicides, but then again, maybe suicides are implied by the story. It is hard to tell.

The two main characters are Sophie (played by Frankie Corio) an 11-year-old girl who is becoming interested in boys and sex, and her divorced father, Calum (Paul Mescal of “The Lost Daughter”) who seems to be suffering from a bipolar disorder. The two, from Scotland, are on a vacation in Turkey.

Sophie is very observant and curious about adults, and she knows that her father is having emotional problems. She tries to cheer him up. Sometimes he tries to cheer her up, too, when he notices that she is not enjoying the vacation as much as he hoped she would. Their relationship seems loving, but tenuous and uneasy. They are staying in a hotel room that was supposed to have two beds, but only has one full-sized bed.

Sophie and Calum use a camcorder to record their vacation and trip. It later becomes evident that Sophie, years later, is presented as an adult (played by Celia Rowlson-Hall) watching this vacation unfold on a camcorder. When I was watching the movie, I thought it was Sophie's mother watching the vacation video, since it appears to be the same camcorder. When I saw the credits, however, I realized this much be the older version of Sophie, which makes no sense, because of the technology involved.

On a scuba diving boat, Calum confides with a diving instructor that he never expected to reach the age of 30, let alone 40. In another scene, he walks in front of a moving bus, and shows no sign of fear or upset after almost being hit. In a later scene, an emotionally disturbed Calum takes off in the middle of the night walking in the dark, towards the ocean, leaving Sophie alone, to fend for herself.

Sophie, on the other hand, seems like a normal young girl in most respects, although there are some indications she may have inherited some of her father's bipolar tendencies. The relationship between daughter and father is an odd one, with Sophie sometimes taking on a more adult role, and sometimes the father acting more like a moody teenager.

For the most part, except the incident described above, the vacation unfolds in a fairly normal way, but with hints of future problems. A lot of these hints are dropped repeatedly throughout the film in stroboscopic scenes. These scenes are like those filmed in a nightclub where there is blackness, occasionally punctuated by brilliant flashes of white light. The most disturbing one shows what appears to be a very disturbed Sophie desperately embracing her father. Many of these scenes also seem to show glimpses of the future adult Sophie.

There is also extreme pixilation in some of the video. Some of the camcorder video also appears to be quite amateurish, as you would expect from the two non-expert camera operators in the story. This, together with the frequent stroboscopic scenes, eventually wear out their welcome. What it amounts to are the worst characteristics of an “art” film combined with a “found footage” film. While there is some very clever camera work in the film, particularly in the final scene, I found the visual elements of the film to be far too repetetive and far less illuminating.

Frankie Corio is extremely cute, and her appearance in this movie, which puts her into a sexual context, has already made a big splash in critical circles in the same way that Keisha Castle-Hughes did in “Whale Rider” and Anna Paquin did in “The Piano,” and probably for the same reasons. She is, after all, the best reason to see this movie, although Calum is also very good in a moody, less appealing role.

It is too bad these actors are caught up in a film that is so visually off-putting and slow-moving. There are a lot of reviewers who praise this film lavishly, which is why I chose to watch it. I found it very disappointing, in fact, almost unwatchable. This film rates a D+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]