Charlotte Wells delivers a poignant sun-soaked gem of a movie with her debut film Aftersun. The film follows 31-year-old, Calum played by Normal People’s Paul Mescal, and his daughter 10-year-old Sophie, played by brilliant newcomer Frankie Corio. It’s told through Sophie’s flashback to a holiday they took together to a Turkish resort, and it acts almost as a coming-of-age film and a goodbye message.

The first thing you notice is the chemistry between Mescal and Corio. Every beat between these characters is perfect to a point where it’s forgettable that they’re acting at all. All the scenes that see them hanging out or idly chatting or even just sitting at a table eating feel natural thanks to some excellent directing from Wells. At first glance, it may seem that Mescal will carry this film but (although his performance is great as always) Corio takes her first role in her stride and plays Sophie with such flair and passion that it feels almost as if she’s the lead. It doesn’t feel like a first-time performance as she shows both a childish side in her interactions with Callum and a more mature side when she is hanging out with the older kids by the pool and when she has to take care of Callum at a later point in the film. She is absolutely fantastic in this role and she is going places.

Cinematography and lighting play a big part in Aftersun and are executed perfectly. The film is mostly shot in conventional ways, but it cuts to a home-movie style now and then, usually filmed by Sophie. In these moments, we get to see what’s real and what’s happened rather than what she is remembering, leading to some of the most heartbreaking scenes. The lighting is cleverly set up as we see the moments they share, shot in bright light, usually in a sunny location like by the pool or on the balcony of their hotel room. Also, Sophie mostly has bright scenes whereas Calum has a lot of darker scenes. He’s a darker character and has more struggles and inner demons than Sophie and this is reflected in the lighting.

Set to a backdrop of 90’s music the film hits a nostalgic point for many. Whether it’s the Macarena, a vocal-only performance of Under Pressure, or Sophie’s rendition of Losing My Religion by R.E.M. there’s a nostalgic element which in turn makes you look back on your own experiences which is exactly what the adult Sophie is doing. Aftersun creates an almost hyperreal space, it just glows. It’s an experience as if you’re in some sort of magic realm and like remembering something that didn’t happen. But there’s also something darker. You know it’s there but you only get clues as to what it might be. Charlotte Wells hides it in plain sight and so it requires a study of these characters to work it out.

No film is perfect, but Aftersun comes pretty close.