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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.

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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.

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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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Netflix

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 Review: Have They Lost Their Spark?

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Sam Phillips as Lord Debling, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Dearest gentle reader, Lady Whistledown is back for another Bridgerton season, and this time for her own love story (the ton doesn’t need to know). Classy as ever, Bridgerton Season 3 focuses primarily on Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton’s characters Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton as they take their friendship to another level.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

What is Bridgerton Season 3 About?

After focusing on Daphne and Anthony Bridgerton in the first and second seasons, the story is now following Colin Bridgerton’s story with the girl next door. Penelope was many things for Colin but never a love interest. She was his sister’s best friend, a girl next door, a friend, and someone who had a crush on him. It’s no secret for the viewers that Penelope had a huge crush on Colin for years, but our girl finally feels ready to move on and get her life together. She is now in search of a husband after getting her heart broken in the last season.

What Stole the Show?

Apart from Nicola Coughlan getting the most deserving highlight, Netflix did their fan service and gave more screen time to now-extremely popular Benedict Bridgerton. Benedict Bridgerton has always been one of the fan favorite characters but after this season he has certainly got a huge following. Luke Thompson’s charms deserve to be studied in a university. He seems to be people’s new crush and I don’t blame them! The beautifully written dialogues are as usual top notch.

Bridgerton is famous for many reasons, including its orchestral remix of popular songs. This season Pitbull’s ‘Give Me Everything’ is in the limelight as one doesn’t expect such an iconic party song to sound so classy. Huge kudos to the makeup and costume department for carrying the show with its theme gracefully. They certainly grasped the attention and enhanced the characters of the show.

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

What’s Bothering Us in The Show?

The scripting of the show seems rushed. It lacks the spice, passion, and the slow burn romance that defines a Bridgerton story. Colin’s character has been poorly developed this time. After being sidelined for the last two seasons this one was supposed to make him the knight in shining armor, but he rather lacks the character. He tries to help Penelope only because he feels guilty for insulting and hurting her. Later on, he ruins her chance with a great suitor only because he feels jealous for not having her. He acts like a child who wants his toy back as soon as some other child starts playing with it. He misses Penelope’s attention after seeing her happy with someone else who wants to marry her. Some may call it ‘true love’ but I believe it’s too immature and childish thing to do for a Bridgerton character. Nothing against Luke Newton but his character development is not helping the show.

Apart from lacking the slow-build and passionate love story, the show seems to have forgotten about Daphne and Simon Basset (played by Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page) completely. Anthony and Kate Bridgerton (played by Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley) appear in one episode and are not even mentioned in the rest.

Nicola Coughlan – The Show’s Star

Nicola Coughlan is shining brighter than any star in the sky. Both Nicola and Penelope are role models for body positivity. Young girls and women across the globe highly relate to Penelope and seeing her accepting herself, being comfortable in her own skin, and getting a complete makeover to feel more like herself is bound to create a positive wave among the fans. Unlike the last two Seasons, the Third Season is also focusing on other characters of the show as well, as it creates branches and stories for potential upcoming seasons. Yet, no one and nothing shines in front of Nicola Coughlan as she wears her crown with grace.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Is It Better Than Last Two Seasons?

Each Bridgerton story has its unique charm that keeps our eyes glued to the screens. Some love Season 1, others like Season 2, and the rest prefer Season 3 but is it better than the last two? Probably not. Nothing can beat Season 1! As much as the show focuses on the ‘Friends to Lovers’ storyline, it lacks the true essence of romance and no, I’m not talking about the spiciness even though they severely lack to give us butterflies. Polin’s storyline sometimes gives us butterflies but not as much as previous seasons did. The groundwork for the couple was laid since the first season yet they are not coming as strong and passionate as expected.

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix. Part 2 will be released on June 13.

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Entertainment

‘IF’ Review | The Most Meaningful and Heartfelt Movie of The Year, Delights With Pure Imagination

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This review was made possible by watching an advanced screening

The most meaningful and heartfelt movie of the year. “IF” enchants with delight and wonder as John Krasinski crafts a love letter to our childhood, making us experience emotions that ultimately hit me right in the feels as he reminds us to never lose sight of our imagination! 

In a cinematic landscape often dominated by cynicism and darkness, John Krasinski’s “IF” is a breath of fresh air, a heartwarming and endearing tale that will leave you beaming with joy as it expertly balances the magic, wonder, and adventure of childhood with the poignancy, trials, and tribulations of adulthood, creating a narrative that is at once both nostalgic and universally relatable. The real magic of “IF” lies in its ability to tap into the collective shared childhood experience by evoking memories of our imaginary friends & the adventures we’ve shared with them. 

“IF,” is a whimsical fantasy family adventure that explores the concept of abandoned imaginary friends or IFs as they call themselves. In this heartwarming tale, Bea, a young girl played beautifully by Cailey Fleming discovers her unique ability to see these unwanted characters and reconnect the forgotten IFs with their original creators who have now fully grown up as she embarks on a magical journey through this imaginative, colourful, and creative world. As one girl learns the power of imagination and friendship. Bea thinks she must be hallucinating – until the man in the apartment upstairs reveals he can also see the IFs. 

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Several years ago, Krasinski, known for his work on “A Quiet Place,” penned a script intending to uplift his children who were struggling with feelings of depression amidst the challenges of the pandemic. Krasinski not only wrote the script but also took on the role of director for the film. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., and Fiona Shaw, among many other A-listers lending their voices to the characters, “IF” was inspired by the impact of the pandemic on Krasinski’s daughters, Hazel and Violet.

Having long harboured the desire to create a film for his children, Krasinski found inspiration in the imaginative worlds his daughters would delve into. Witnessing the genuine joy and authenticity with which they played, he was motivated to capture this magic on screen. Through “IF,” Krasinski aimed to show his daughters that this world of imagination and make-believe is always within reach, a place where they can be anything they desire. This magical world is ever-present and waiting for them to explore.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Imaginary friends, these elusive entities existing solely in a child’s vivid imagination, serve as a comforting beacon amidst the chaos of adulthood. In this whimsical tale, away from the foreboding presence of sightless extraterrestrials, audiences are treated to a cascade of endearing characters and a wave of nostalgic charm that instils a heartwarming sense of joy and wonder. “IF” is a delightful escapade that celebrates the virtues of curiosity, creativity, and innocence, rekindling the essence of childhood wonder, and reminding us that the magic is always within reach.

Featuring a star-studded lineup of IFs including Steve Carell, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Keegan-Michael Key, and more, the film introduces a mix of charismatic imaginary beings brought to life through the distinct voices of these esteemed actors. Each character, with its unique backstory and quirks, adds a human touch to the ethereal world, resonating with both younger viewers and their older counterparts.

The film’s exploration of imaginary friends serves as a poignant reminder that our childhood aspirations and dreams are not just fleeting fantasies, but rather tangible time capsules that hold the power to shape our future. These creations, born from our imagination, are a manifestation of our hopes, desires, and innermost ambitions – a reflection of who we wanted to be and what we wanted to achieve. As we grow up and face the harsh realities of adulthood, it’s easy to lose sight of these childhood ideals, but the film suggests that we don’t have to let go of that spark. By tapping into the imagination and embracing the spirit of our youthful selves, we can reignite our passions, rediscover our sense of purpose, and continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves. In this way, imaginary friends become a powerful tool for self-reflection, creativity, and personal growth, reminding us that even as we age, we can still hold onto the essence of our childhood dreams.”

Through the vibrant personalities of figures like Blue, Unicorn, Sunny, Spaceman, and Ally, the movie explores the boundless bounds of a child’s imagination. A blend of conventional and eccentric companions, such as Blossom, Ice, Cosmo, and Marshmallow creates a tapestry of humour and charm that engages viewers in a realm where the fantastical meets the mundane in delightful ways. Most significantly Lewis, an old teddy bear voiced by Louis Gossett Jr sadly passed away and the film is lovingly dedicated to him with such a touching tribute after the credits rolled.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

To render the unseen into vision, director John Krasinski enlisted the expertise of VFX supervisor Chris Lawrence and the revered effects studio Framestore, weaving together around 800 meticulously crafted shots featuring a diverse ensemble of 42 CGI characters. Within this narrative realm, a poignant blend of fantasy and magical realism flourishes, engendering a profound sense of belief in the audience as they witness these ethereal beings coalesce on screen. Employing a blend of physical puppets and digital animation, the film sought to honour the sanctity of space and performance, poised on the precipice of seamlessly integrating these otherworldly entities within the tangible fabric of the film universe.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Through this meticulous fusion of technical prowess and artistic vision, the film emerges as a testament to the transformative power of storytelling, poised to captivate audiences with its charm and artistry.

With a captivating blend of computer-generated CGI forms seamlessly integrating into the real world, expertly led by the dynamic duo of Fleming and Reynolds, As the live-action leads, they exhibit effortless chemistry on-screen, commanding attention and drawing the audience in. The initial wariness between Bea and Cal gives way to a warm and engaging rapport, characterised by witty banter and exasperation.

As Bea navigates the challenges of transitioning through her teenage years, she finds solace in these quirky and unique imaginary friends, embracing the comfort and security of childhood delights. Meanwhile, the film’s relationships take centre stage, led by the charismatic performance of Ryan Reynolds and standout Cailey Fleming, alongside Fiona Shaw. The movie’s greatest strength lies in its nuanced balance between lighthearted moments and emotional depth, evoking a sense of warmth and family, particularly during poignant reunion scenes.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

One of the film’s most endearing relationships is that between Bea and her father, played by Krasinski, which is charmingly tender and heartfelt.

Michael Giacchino’s music score for the movie “If” is a masterclass in emotional depth and thematic complexity. The composer delivers one of the best scores of his career, weaving a sonic tapestry that perfectly captures the film’s poignant exploration of connection whether that’s from human or imaginary. Giacchino’s themes are creative, heartfelt, and sincere, expertly conveying the emotional highs and lows of the characters’ journeys. From the tender warmth to the soaring grandeur of the score’s more uplifting moments, every note feels carefully crafted to elevate the film’s emotional impact. Giacchino’s score is a stunning achievement, showcasing his remarkable composer skill and ability to tap into the heart of a story.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In essence, “IF” is a cinematic celebration of the power of imagination, brought to life through a tapestry of endearing characters and heartfelt moments that left me feeling nostalgic and uplifted. With its colourful jumble of personalities and whimsical storytelling, the film is a captivating journey into the enchanting world of make-believe that will warm the hearts of viewers of all ages. 

IF” hits theatres on May 17. 

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Adventure

Arthur the King is an Epic Masterpiece

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Arthur the King movie poster (Lionsgate Films)

Here follows the review of Arthur the King, a story of deep connection between people and dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, some have wagging tails and would cross a river (and jungle) for you.

Plot

Desperate for one last chance to win, Michael Light convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. As the team gets pushed to the outer limits of endurance, a dog named Arthur comes along for the ride, redefining what victory, loyalty and friendship truly means.

Arthur Foundation

Mikael Lindnord raced through a jungle in Ecuador and after feeding a few meatballs to a stray dog made a friend for life. The dog followed Mikael and his team through the rough terrain. Mikael named the dog Arthur and took him back home with him.

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord (Photo taken by Krister Goransson)

The Arthur Foundation collaborates with various organizations in different countries that work towards animal welfare.

Click on the following links to reach out to Mikael Lindnord.

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The movie is based on the memoir, Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, who was the athlete who participated in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. It is important to note in the movie they refer to him as Michael Light. Even though the original race took place in Ecuador, the movie changed the location to the Dominican Republic. The original race took place in 2014, while in the movie the race takes place in 2018.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the part of the Mikael and delivers an excellent performance alongside Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. Ukai, a stray dog, was a real champion portraying the role of Arthur. The film takes us through picturesque locations in the Dominican Republic. The suspense was felt at every turn and corner and you are kept glued to the screen with a gripping storyline. The story balances the journey of Mikael and Arthur and eventually joins their path like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Light (Lionsgate Films)

A fictional backstory is provided of Mikael’s competitive journey as well as the journey that Arthur took to get to Mikael. The movie successfully tells a deep story of connection between dogs and people. If you want to know more about the real story, you can check your local bookstore or Amazon for a copy of Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home

This movie is a 5 out of 5 for me. The connection between Mikael and Arthur is brought to life in this epic masterpiece. Arthur found a home in the heart of Mikael and thanks to Mark Wahlberg and Ukai, this film adaptation of ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ became a memorable movie.

The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the important scenes of the movie. Arthur the King has a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end.

Arthur the King Official Trailer (Lionsgate Films)

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