Aftersun – Review

Cast: Frankie Colio, Paul Mescal, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Sally Messham
Directed and Written by Charlotte Wells
Length: 102mins

The 1990’s saw a British invasion of a new kind, with exotic locations such as Malaga and Turkey becoming overrun by package holidays and organised entertainment – foreign enough to be exciting, but without the need to learn any new language. The latter of these two getaways is where ‘Aftersun’ plays out, a story of a youthful father and his wisened daughter, as the two attempt to enjoy a getaway together, which on the surface appears to strengthen their bond and intimacy, but brings with it its fair share of anxieties and uncertainties too.

The recently-recognisable name of Paul Mescal drew a great deal of attention to this film upon its release, and his performance is nothing short of enchanting. However, this isn’t the only great piece of acting which ‘Aftersun’ provides, as 12-year-old Frankie Colio makes her debut as an incredibly talented youngster, with her portrayal of the daughter, Sophie, contributing towards one of the greatest father-daughter relationships shown in any film in recent memory. There’s a clear naturalistic aesthetic which defines much of the story of ‘Aftersun’, and a great deal of this comes as a result of the warmth and humility Colio and Mescal’s characters share with one another. In one scene sharing the sweetness of a summer holiday abroad, and the next, grumpily seeing out the tiredness of exhausted afternoons away from the sun. I don’t feel that I can overstate enough the strength of the performances between this duo, as they provide a huge range of emotions experienced throughout the length of ‘Aftersun’.

First-time director Charlotte Wells – how is this someone’s first film! – utilises a great number of filmic techniques to portray the sticky, commercialised and fond memories of a summer spent abroad in the 90’s. The great soundtrack which reinforces the emotion of many scenes is perfectly selected, with an especially well-placed use of one of Blur’s greatest tracks, ‘Tender’. However, Wells isn’t content to simply include a precisely-timed needle drop, but also experiments with the speed of the track, accentuating Damon Albarn’s intimate vocals even further by slowing the song down as an evening of uncertainty reaches its conclusion. This scene in particular stands as a highlight within a film littered with great moments, and showcases the talents of a filmmaker who may very well become a highly regarded name amongst directors of her generation.

There’s a great deal of ambiguity to ‘Aftersun’s’ narrative – a statement that would seem to contrast the naturalistic dialogue and home-video shooting style. Although never explicitly stated, and without wanting to give too much away, the film is one which sparks a flood of debate over the true story which has been told as you leave the cinema. Small hints and references to anxieties around the characters imply that what is shown is not truly what is being told, and that the enormous emotional imprint this film leaves on your thoughts comes more from what isn’t shown, than what is.

Perhaps my favourite film of 2022, I can’t emphasise enough just how much I fell in love with this story. The beautiful locations, the strange community that comes as a result of package holidays, the incredible performances between Paul Mescal and Frankie Colio. It truly is a must-see film, and a landmark debut film from Charlotte Wells.

Glass Onion – Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Leslie Odom Jr.
Directed and written by Rian Johnson
Length: 139mins

“I told you about strawberry fields, you know the place where nothing is real” calls out John Lennon in the opening of this classic Beatles track, and in a way, much the same could be said for the world in which Rian Johnson’s all-star cast of sycophantic socialites encounter their greatest trouble yet – honesty. Delving once again into the intrigue of a singular Mr. Benoit Blanc’s worldly encounters, the latest case for the man in white comes at the request of his attendance in a who-dunit game of the highest stakes, where the death of billionaire entrepreneur Miles Bron will not only need to be solved, but witnessed too.

A sequel to the Netflix sensation from 2019, the ‘Knives Out’ films as we first got to know them contained their fair share of colourful characters, twisting narratives and comic reliefs. As well as this, perhaps the strongest success from the first film was in its ability to use a classic narrative device of the murder mystery, to explore modern day issues of politics and immigration. Each individual’s treatment of Ana de Armas’s immigrant-descendant Marta Cabrera further unravelled not only pieces of the puzzle, but the ideas in the heads of the American population at the time – exposing servings of both prejudice and goodwill. ‘Glass Onion’ shares a clear theme in much the same way, exploring the impact that technology and its potential power can have on certain individuals, and their use of that influence to manipulate others, but in some ways the stakes don’t feel quite so high in this latest instalment. Perhaps the extremities of the billionaire-funded location make it a little harder to relate to the issues at hand, or Rian Johnson just wanted to be more playful in this new film. Either way, there’s something to be said for the depth of the original ‘Knives Out’, but nothing which should be taken as a reason to like ‘Glass Onion’ any less.

Once again, Daniel Craig is in his element as the extravagant and exemplary Benoit Blanc. The supposedly “greatest detective in the world according to Google,” with a face of stone and a heart of gold, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face as Blanc eyes up every scene, whether having a friendly chat with another oddball individual, or criticising the conspiracy at large. Like the layers of a glass onion, everything seems completely clear once Blanc has drawn attention to each detail.

The story structure of this new film is unlike many others I’ve seen in recent years. Anytime you feel as if you’ve begun to settle into a scene, Rian Johnson throws a whole new set of rules at you, but fortunately soon comes to your aid to explain how the game’s being played. One inexplicable mystery after another, ‘Glass Onion’ is home to its fair share of twists and turns – none of which should be sought after before seeing the film for yourself.

A perfect family watch over the festive period, the film’s release just two days before Christmas was a smart move on Netflix’s part, with the only regret being that it didn’t receive a wider run in cinemas. Wherever you see it, however, the latest trials and tribulations of the esteemed Benoit Blanc are not to be missed.