If there is one thing that is immediately obvious when confronting this Aftersun , it is that there is clearly a lot of its author in it.
Story of the relationship that an eleven-year-old girl had with her young father, all taking place at the end of the 1990s which corresponds precisely to the period during which Charlotte Wells was the same age, Aftersun presents all the signs of the testimonial work ; of autobiography serving as a support for the artistic approach.
And as much as I admit to having seen strengths there, despite everything I also and above all saw limits.
Because yes, it’s obvious that the personal dimension of the work greatly contributes to its impression of authenticity and I completely agree with that.
This way of capturing looks, silences and small moments are all elements that we cannot help but perceive as being precious because they are intimate; subtle because certainly delivered on edge.
But on the other hand we can also be clearly assailed by this question of what is the point ?
What is the point in offering the viewer this feeling and these moments? What are they really saying that is unique, unique and complex enough to justify stretching the film over an hour and a half?
Because basically, we have the right to say to ourselves that we are dealing with an author who gives us a slice of life that is banal to say the least and whose legitimacy we would clearly have the right to question. be projected on the big screens.
For my part, I admit to having regularly had the impression of having been taken hostage by a purely egoistic act : contemplate my discomfort, contemplate my little childhood wounds, contemplate me, me and me…
My problems are the center of my concerns, and I intend that they also become yours; those from all over the world…
So after that, don’t make me say what I didn’t say because, yes, from the singular, we may very well be able to open a door to the universal; we can very well build bridges between the humanity of the author and that of the spectators.
But does Aftersun have what it takes to build this bridge?
Does he have something more to offer than what a Coppolian Somewhere or a Tarnation from friend Caouette have already been able to put on the table?
As far as I’m concerned, frankly, there is debate.
First of all, there is debate because, in this register, I find that this Aftersun clearly suffers from comparison with what constitutes for me the reference of recent years, I called 90’s by Jonah Hill.
In my eyes, 90’s is a testimony that works all the better because it does not stop at the feelings of the young child that the author intends to put on film. It is also a testimony that goes well beyond itself.
90’s does not only bear witness to Jonah Hill’s childhood, it bears witness to a culture and a practice anchored in their time; of an era through it and of a certain counterbalance operated on the question of rites of passage.
In my eyes, this is what made 90’s , although it is basically a very personal testimonial work, a film which nevertheless knew how to enrich our approach to a generality. And if he knew how to constitute himself precisely in this way.
And the problem is that I’m having trouble finding that in Aftersun .
I find it difficult to perceive Charlotte Wells’ youth as a pretext to discover a universe, a culture and an era…
Because yes, personally, the exploration of the seedy holiday camps of Turkey at the end of the century last, I find that it quickly meets its limits…
And yet I must admit that everything is not to be thrown away in Aftersun , because even if the numerous attempts at aestheticization may initially appear as desperate gestures to hide from misery, I must admit that, in the long term, they still managed to convince me that they could be brought to say something.
Beyond the strange attempt to make the father-daughter relationship between Callum and Sophie ambiguous, Aftersun manages to play on an ambiguity which is much more interesting in my opinion; that which consists of hoping for the marvelous where there is none .
Yes, the hotel is shabby and the leisure activities offered are as artificial as possible, but for Sophie it is one of the rare moments of complicity with her father.
Yes too, the digital camera produces disgusting images with garish colors, but it is nevertheless a tool capable of capturing cherished moments despite that.
Yes, finally, Michael and the other young people at the camp are not the icons of friends and lovers that we tend to make at that age, but they nevertheless each of them played their initiating role despite everything.
All these elements are therefore no less precious, even if they clearly do not come from a little girl’s dream.
For all these aspects Aftersun manages to say something not so trivial; something in particular about having to navigate our own childhood despite the fact that our father is not a model of a tutelary figure; despite the fact that the happy summer vacation did not have the flavor of the desired paradise…
And it was in particular when arriving at the end of this Aftersun that I realized to what extent it was sailing between two waters.
Quite a symbol indeed: of the entire hour and a half that the film lasts, the last ten minutes are surely the most successful. It is really at this moment that he manages best to focus on the idea of the legacy whatever its nature; on the fact that despite the formally mediocre character of certain moments, they can nevertheless become real emotional keystones for an entire existence…
And in relation to this I find the concluding plan quite remarkable and skillfully effective; a moment which made me say to myself that, apparently, this film had managed to provide a few good moments of the same kind; moments leading me not to regret my trip to the theater…
Despite everything – like a terrible pattern repeating itself endlessly, it is also this conclusion which made me say to myself that in the end – in view of what this film could produce as a sensation – it revealed itself to the very ungenerous ending on these famous moments that could save him.
How many random moments for a few successful moments? How much exposure of insignificant banalities in exchange for real moments of singularity…
And it is precisely by finding myself faced with assessments like this that I cannot help but feel more upset about the limits of this type of exercise, rather than rejoicing in its strengths.
I understand clearly that personal life can animate the work and inspiration of an author. After all, what better experience can we have of humanity and the feelings it can provide if not our own? We still remain our best source of inspiration to look for something unique that goes beyond conventions. On this point, no worries…
On the other hand, it must precisely be the strength of the artist to be able to impose the necessary critical distance which allows him to sort through this personnel.
Because if I can hear that certain moments spent by the pool or at the club bar may have had a particular value for Charlotte Wells, I, as a spectator who is a stranger to her, find it difficult to see.
The staff is not always unique. It is not always worthy of interest.
This is what makes me say that ultimately this Aftersun really has something very millennial about it; that he is truly the incarnation of his time.
Certainly Aftersun is neither vain nor unworthy of interest. But the problem is that it is just one of the multiple consequences of this period of ego growth.
No matter what one has to say, the exposure of the self seems to justify everything.
For my part, I am not convinced.
So it’s doubtful that I leave this Aftersun behind me.
Doubtful as I can also be about the times.
And even though I tell myself that there is still some good to be had in all of this,
that despite everything I can’t help but see something a little odd in it..