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‘Aftersun’ Director Charlotte Wells On Channeling Her Childhood Memories For Her First Feature: “It Became Personal” — Toronto Studio

When Aftersun arrived in Toronto, its reputation preceded it, having caused a splash at its debut in Cannes in May and gone down a storm at the Scottish premiere held in director Charlotte Wells’ hometown of Edinburgh last month. “It’s about a young father and his 11-year-old daughter on holiday at a resort in Turkey in the late 1990s,” Wells said when she came by Deadline’s TIFF Studio, “but told through the point of view of the young girl as an adult, looking back.”

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Though the story is not autobiographical, Wells was inspired by her relationship with her own father. “The original idea was a young father with his daughter on holiday,” she said. “That was definitely always the core of it. I think it was inspired by just flipping through old family photographs, and it coincided with the point at which I was thinking about what my first feature might be. I was struck by how young my dad looked in those pictures — my parents were fairly young when I was born — and I was approaching the age that he was in them. So, that was the seed that it began from: this young father and daughter, who could be mistaken for siblings, abroad together.”

Though the story is universal, Wells takes an experimental approach to the material, leaving layers of mystery and ambiguity in her portrayal of the father. “In the early stages,” she said, “it was a bit more of a conventionally structured piece about these two people who go on holiday in this very confined, bizarre area, and then find reason to leave it and kind of explore the place that they are in. But over the course of writing it, it just became a bit more personal. Like, it began to be more informed by specific memories, not just from a holiday, but from throughout childhood. And I allowed that to form the outline of the very first draft of the script, even though I had been developing the idea, and building the world, for a while.”

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Actor Paul Mescal recalled having a “profound response” to Wells’ script. “I play Calum, the young father,” he said. “He’s separated from his wife and he’s an excellent father, which I think was hugely important to the film and what drew me to it. But he’s kind of battling his own demons, too, throughout the course of the film.”

Click the link for more on Aftersun.

The Deadline Studio is sponsored by dr Liza + the[fix] and Watford Group. Special thanks to our partner Soluna.

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