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Aftersun Review | 2022’s Best

PFF: Charlotte Wells’ coming-of-age drama, ‘Aftersun,’ is one of the best films of the year and features two of the best performances of the year by Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio.



About a month or so ago, a famous critic told me that Aftersun was his favorite film of the year and judging by his Letterboxd, it’s not even close. This was just days after I mixed up the date of the press screening at the NYFF and so I would have to wait until the Philadelphia Film Festival to see this film that’s been talked about all year. And I have to say that while going into a film with high expectations can oftentimes make or break a film, Aftersun met and exceeded all expectations. It’s just a stellar film led by wonderful direction from a first-time feature-length director, nuanced lead performances and a final scene that will leave you in shambles. 

Aftersun is a relatively simple film following a father and daughter on a trip during the latter’s childhood. Calum (Paul Mescal) is the father to the young Sophie (Frankie Corio), and the two travel to Turkey for a summer holiday. The film is not focused on some bombastic vacation. Rather, it’s an exploration of a father and daughter who share a touching bond. 

A still from Aftersun. Photo courtesy of A24.

Mescal, who is most known to me as “Phoebe Bridgers’ partner” (lucky man), is stellar as Calum. I now remember him being in The Lost Daughter, which is not a film I particularly enjoyed outside of its performances, and he left a lasting impression there as well. While we don’t get a whole lot of background on Calum or his relationship with his ex-wife and daughter prior to the events of Aftersun, you do know that he’s a loving father. A lot of Mescal’s performance is very subtle and not to be ignored. Watch his face when his daughter wishes him happy birthday or the final scene that I won’t spoil here. Mescal’s phenomenal and I appreciate the fact that Aftersun shows both the good parts and flaws that Calum has as a father.

And Calum’s really not the perfect father. Aftersun is also not to portray other fathers as a juxtaposition to Calum. For example, there’s one father that drags his screaming son out of the hotel waterpark after his child “embarrasses” him. While Calum wouldn’t necessarily do that to Sophie, he can be stern when needed and even left his daughter hanging on the karaoke stage. However, Calum is capable of some good fatherly advice, including the line he says to Sophie about the fact that once you’re an adult, “you can live where you want to, [you can] be anything you want to be.” 

A still from Aftersun. Photo courtesy of A24.

Sophie is still coming-of-age at this point and we’re getting a glimpse of her formative summer. She shares moments with her dad including a karaoke rendition of “Losing my Religion” and laying by the pool, but she also meets a young boy and shares what we assume to be her first kiss and also hangs out with the older, “cool” kids. A lot of these moments are ones that we’ve all had in our younger years, and that’s the beauty of Aftersun.

A lot of the success of Aftersun is due to Corio, who is an absolute gem — congratulations on the Gotham Award nomination. This should serve as her breakout performance and the first of many phenomenal roles. Aftersun is Corio’s acting debut and if that’s the case, what better way to debut? Corio resembles a young Natalie Portman in Léon the Professional — which was Portman’s film debut. I can’t forecast whether or not Corio goes on to have the award-winning career that Portman has had, but Aftersun is a fantastic start on that path.

One of the best scenes Corio has is when Sophie is recording her father and he asks her to stop. Throughout the film, Sophie is periodically videotaping her trip on an old camcorder and there’s a point where she asks about something uber-personal to her father. He requests she put the camera down to which she cheekily replies, “it’s not filming,” though he’s quick to point out the red dot on the camera. For a film that takes place in what I assume is the 1990s, this was the lone scene where Sophie felt like a kid in the 21st century when YouTuber “pranksters” insist to Target employees that they aren’t filming when they clearly are.

“You can live where you want to, [you can] be anything you want to be.”

– Calum (Mescal) in Aftersun

But to reemphasize, both performances are nuanced despite how tender and quiet they are. Coming off of seeing The Whale just a couple of days prior, this father-daughter relationship — while inherently different — is far more moving and real. Mescal and Corio have a symbiotic bond that is required for the film to make any lasting impact. From the opening moments that see the two making fun of their travel guide to the way Sophie adamantly insists that she’s not tired despite nearly passing out by the end of her sentence, these moments just feel real. I can’t think of a more authentic father-daughter relationship in a film in recent memory. 

A behind-the-scenes still from Aftersun. Photo courtesy of A24.

Despite the fact that Aftersun may be Wells’ first feature-length directorial effort, nothing about her work here would suggest that. Tuesday, her previous short film, proved that she’s got a great handle on the coming-of-age genre and that directing comes easy to her. She’s also just got a phenomenal sense of blocking, and while Gregory Oke served as the film’s DP, I’d like to imagine Wells had a hand in it, too. One of the many great shots is when the camera hangs on a polaroid as it develops. As this is happening, Calum and Sophie are speaking, but all we can see is the picture develop much like we’ve seen our two main characters do throughout the film. 

Another strong choice Wells makes is her usage of “Under Pressure.” It’s ironic that I write this on the heels of the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania trailer release because my biggest criticism of the trailer is the usage of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road.” I do adore the song, but gatekeeping aside, I generally think that the editing of iconic songs in trailers is infuriating. Take Lightyear, for example, which used David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in the trailer. It did that thing where it chops up the song so notes are extended and it hits the beats of the trailer, but it normally butchers a perfectly great song.

In Aftersun, “Under Pressure” is used to, well, visualize the pressure felt by Calum. Throughout the film, there are quick snippets, almost like flashes on a strobe light, that are sprinkled throughout various scenes in the film. It’s hard to clearly make things out, but Calum can eventually be seen. I won’t give away who also becomes clearer as these sequences happen in the film, but the scene eventually becomes set. Add in a shot of Calum floating aimlessly in the ocean and you have a great representation of feeling pressure building. 

Around the middle eight of the song, all of the background music including guitars, pianos and drums are softly drowned out and we only hear the vocals of Bowie and Freddie Mercury. Maybe upon first thinking of the song, you wouldn’t think that the song is that intense — it is, after all, a relatively upbeat song — but there’s something about the isolated vocals that are so intense and this is where Oliver Coates’ very melancholic score is interwoven into “Under Pressure.” To my recollection, this is the first time I’ve seen someone use their score and stitch it with an iconic song. Even if this isn’t the first instance of it, it’s a beautiful touch.

Aftersun isn’t an overly-long film, its runtime is about 96 minutes without credits, but boy does it make the most of that. The final scene puts the icing on the cake of a near-perfect film. There’s a beautifully seamless transition that occurs and leaves one of our main characters alone. The facial expressions of the actor and the lonely walk down a hall and what you get quick glimpses of behind the door all put a neat bow on the film. It left me absolutely shattered, but Aftersun is a film that sticks the landing and closes the book on this chapter of a story.

A still from Aftersun. Photo courtesy of A24.

It may be too hyperbolic to say this, but Aftersun is my favorite film of the year. I’m such a sucker for any film that can take a relationship whether it be familial or friends, just look at my favorite films of the last few years Booksmart, Minari and CODA, and Aftersun joins that class of stellar films. It’s such a tender and authentic portrait of a father and daughter on holiday together that will break your heart as often as it’ll make you smile, and I cannot express how excited I am for the futures of Wells, Mescal and Corio. 

Aftersun had its world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival on May 21 and is in select theaters now.


Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Sung Kang’s ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a Campy Horror-Comedy With Superb Performances



Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen in 'Shaky Shivers' (Cineverse)

If you thought that Sung Kang can only thrill you with amazing car stunts, then you are wrong. The acclaimed star is set to take you on an entertaining ride with his directorial debut titled ‘Shaky Shivers’.

The latest horror-comedy film marks the feature directorial debut of Sung Kang, renowned for his roles in the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise and several other big projects. The movie stars Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen, with an ensemble cast including Jimmy Bellinger, Erin Daniels, and Herschel Sparber.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

From the very beginning, ‘Shaky Shivers’ grabs hold of your attention with the comedic chemistry between lead actresses Brooke Markham (Lucy) and VyVy Nguyen (Karen). Their hilarious banter and dynamic friendship draw you into their world of magic, mayhem, and monstrous encounters. While a few other characters make appearances, the heart of the film rests on the shoulders of Karen and Lucy, whose relatable and believable friendship makes the story even more bewitching.

One of the best aspects of the film is how Sung Kang skillfully directs the title despite limited cast and limited settings. It still manages to keep audiences engaged and entertained. Kang also pays homage to classic horror films like ‘American Werewolf in London’ and injects fresh energy into the scenes while showcasing his comedic flair.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

If you are one of those who enjoy unapologetically goofy and fun movies, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is undoubtedly a fun watch. Embracing its campiness, the film doesn’t try to be anything other than an enjoyable ride filled with supernatural elements. The characters have a helpful book of spells that they use to solve problems, which adds a clever and funny element to the story that will make you laugh..

While categorized as a horror-comedy, ‘Shaky Shivers’ leans more towards comedy than horror. However, don’t worry, as the supernatural beings like werewolves, zombies, and witches make their presence known throughout. The practical effects and impressive monster makeup, reminiscent of old-school horror flicks from the 70s and 80s, immerse you in a world of creatures and enchantment.

A still from ‘Shaky Shivers’ (Cineverse)

The plot of ‘Shaky Shivers’ escalates in an exciting and compelling manner, filled with unpredictable twists and goofy surprises.  While it may not leave you terrified, the perfect blend of supernatural ambiance and comedic moments guarantees plenty of laughter and enjoyment.

In conclusion, ‘Shaky Shivers’ is a must-watch horror-comedy that delivers on laughs, friendship, and supernatural encounters. With its engaging storyline, talented cast, and Sung Kang’s impressive directorial debut, the film is a delightful addition to the genre. So grab a large tub of popcorn and take your family for this fun-filled ride.

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Sex Education Season 4 is a Spectacular (and Overstuffed) Conclusion to One of Netflix’s Extraordinary Series



Official posted of 'Sex Education' Season 4 (Netflix)

When the first season of Sex Education came out on Netflix in 2019, it felt pretty daring and exciting for everyone. While there were many shows about teenagers and sex, ‘Sex Education’ stood out because it talked about these topics openly and covered them in a pretty detailed manner. Without any guesses, the show became really popular and is now considered a classic on Netflix. For 3 long seasons, viewers have seen students of Moordale, and everyone around them, dealing with a lot of complications, but now, it’s time to say goodbye to some of our character as the Netflix series has returned for its fourth and final edition.

At the end of Season 3, Moordale Secondary School closed down. This means that Otis, Eric, Aimee, Jackson, Vivienne, Cal, and Ruby have to go to a new school, Cavendish Sixth Form College. Some of them fit in well, while others struggle. And while Otis tries to focus on his therapy work, he finds out that there are other young people who are experts on relationships and sex in town.

Gillian Anderson as Jean Milburn in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

One of the strengths of Sex Education is its diverse and inclusive representation. The show shines a light on various sexual orientations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, providing a platform for underrepresented voices. Season 4 continues to explore these themes, introducing new characters who add depth and complexity to the narrative. On ghe other hand, the only problem with Season 4 is that there are too many things going on at once. There are so many sub-plots that might distract you at times and make you feel that this story might have looked good if there was another season in pipeline.

Even then, the writing remains sharp and witty, creating relatable and genuine teenage characters who grapple with their own insecurities and desires.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

The performances in ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 are consistently strong. Asa Butterfield brings vulnerability and charm to his role as Otis, portraying the character’s growth and maturity. Ncuti Gatwa shines as Eric, capturing both his strength and vulnerability as he navigates new relationships and personal challenges. Emma Mackey delivers a nuanced performance as Maeve, showcasing her character’s intelligence and emotional depth. Mimi Keene is stupendous as well and bring another layer to her character which was so nice to see. Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson does what she is best at: deliver another extraordinary performance.

Emma Mackey as Maeve in Sex Education Season 4. (Netflix)

On the other hand, Aimee Lou Wood continues to mesmerise us with her charm and simplicity. Directors should definitely look at her and give her a leading role soon because she deserves it. Another actor that is surely a star in the making is Anthony Lexa, who portrays Abbi in Season 4. Her performance adds an additional charm to the series and gives a hope to Trans actors that they can too achieve their dreams.

A still from ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 (Netflix)

The final edition tackles difficult topics with sensitivity and care, highlighting the importance of consent, communication, and understanding in relationships. The show’s ability to tackle these issues head-on without becoming preachy is a testament to its thoughtful storytelling.

While the final season of ‘Sex Education’ does have some pacing and narrative issues, the strength of the performances, the thoughtful exploration of important issues, and the show’s commitment to inclusivity make it a satisfying and engaging watch. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to these beloved characters, but the legacy of Sex Education will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the television landscape.

Sex Education Season 4. (L to R) Mimi Keene as Ruby, Asa Butterfield as Otis in Sex Education Season 4 (Netflix)

In conclusion, ‘Sex Education’ Season 4 continues to deliver a standout and boundary-pushing narrative that explores sexuality, identity, and personal growth with humor and sensitivity. Despite some minor flaws, the show remains a shining example of inclusive storytelling and offers a heartfelt farewell to its beloved characters.

Some goodbyes are hard and this is certainly one of them.

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Flora and Son is a Heartfelt Exploration of Family and Music



Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in a still from 'Flora and Son' (Apple TV+)

Flora and Son, directed by John Carney, tells the compelling story of Flora, a single mother struggling to navigate the challenges of parenthood and find her own identity. Starring Eve Hewson as Flora, the film dives into the complexities of motherhood, relationships, and the power of music in bringing people together. There have been a lot of musicals in recent times that take a very complex route in telling a story, but Flora and Son is a bit different than all of them. The story is really simple and that’s what makes the film such a treat to watch.

The movie opens with Flora enjoying a night out at a club in Dublin, only to end up in a disappointing hook-up. Flora’s life is far from perfect, as she grapples with her troubled teenage son Max (Orén Kinlan) and a less-than-supportive ex-husband, Ian (Jack Reynor). Flora’s interactions with Max are often tense, filled with sarcastic banter and strained attempts to connect with him. As a single mother, Flora faces numerous hardships and setbacks, leading her to doubt her own potential. Her attempts to do right by her son are often met with indifference or resistance. However, a pivotal moment occurs when Flora acquires a guitar for Max, unaware that it will have a profound impact on her own journey. Flora’s decision to learn to play the guitar leads her to Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a songwriter and teacher based in California. Despite the distance between them, their connection is palpable, and through music, they bridge the gap. Jeff encourages Flora to embrace her creativity and express herself authentically, unlocking a passion she didn’t know she possessed.

Eve Hewson in a still from ‘Flora and Son’ (Apple TV+)

The performances in Flora and Son are exceptional, particularly Eve Hewson’s portrayal of Flora. She effortlessly portrays a range of emotions, from humor and charm to vulnerability and raw emotion. Hewson’s nuanced performance brings depth and authenticity to the character, making her relatable and captivating. It will be a travesty if she is not spotted by a big filmmaker and gives her a chance to lead another extraordinary movie. On the other hand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is soulful and gives a performance that is really enchanting. The chemistry between Hewson and Gordon-Levitt, even through virtual interactions, adds an extra layer of depth to their characters’ connection.

Carney’s direction creates an intimate yet heartfelt atmosphere in the film.  The use of music as a driving force in the narrative is a testament to Carney’s storytelling prowess, showcasing the transformative power of melodies and lyrics. One of the film’s strengths is its refusal to tie everything up neatly in a predictable manner. Instead, Flora and Son choose a more realistic approach, leaving some loose ends and logistics unresolved. This choice allows the characters to continue their journey of self-discovery, leaving viewers with a sense of hope and possibility.

Eve Hewson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a still from ‘Flora and Son’ (Apple TV+)

In conclusion, Flora and Son is a touching exploration of a single mother’s journey to find her voice, both as a musician and as a parent. With exceptional performances and a thoughtful narrative, the film resonates with authenticity and emotional depth. Carney’s direction and the film’s emphasis on the transformative power of music make Flora and Son a standout family drama. The simplicity and innocence is what makes it such a heart-warming watch. This film will make your heart sing.

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