Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Wells shows how interactions that were solid within their own moment become more ambiguous as time has gone by and the adult understanding of Sophie has grown." | Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF

The cast-iron reality of a Nineties summer package holiday, with its suntan lotion, cheap drinks and entertainment almost as tacky as the carpets meets something altogether more impressionistic in Charlotte Wells' debut film - a character study of both dad and daughter and the characteristics of the bond between the two.

Single dad Calum (Paul Mescal) has taken his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on holiday to Turkey, but we soon see the surface excitement is underpinned by something much more serious for dad, even if his daughter only catches the occasional glimpse of it like sun - or, more accurately, shadow - hitting a wave. Although the bulk of the action unfolds under the hot Turkish sunshine, it is loosely framed by the older Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) looking back at a holiday video that was shot on the trip. There are also regular, darker, interludes filled with music, strobe and emotion - a sort of liminal world that seems cut adrift from time altogether, at once potentially the past and the future.

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Like Sophie, we look for answers to the mystery of her dad, quickly becoming invested in his mental state. She quizzes him on the balcony, although he is reluctant to give any answers. We also see the moments she doesn't, despair in a bathroom, desire in a rug store, both of which run unexpectedly deep. For Sophie, the holiday emotions are to the fore, the thrill of getting to hang out with kids who are older, even the prospect of a first kiss, things she shares with her dad as though he's a co-conspirator. You can always tell me anything is his message to her, caught in tension with the fact he is, of course, given the relationship, unable to do the same in return.

Wells shows how interactions that were solid within their own moment become more ambiguous as time has gone by and the adult understanding of Sophie has grown. Her childhood reactions and interactions are now tempered by the wider awareness afforded by the passing of the years and, Wells hints, subsequent events. Mescal and Corio don't put a foot wrong on the acting front, their bond feeling both loose and tight in all the right places. Wells also goes beyond the emotional textures that run as deep as the pile on those rugs to other moments of sensorial elegance - smoke drifting upwards, the sound of breathing. Her film is not only ambitious but daring and unafraid - it's a powerful combination.

Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2022
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Sometime in the Nineties, somewhere in a Turkish coastal resort, a young, divorced father is spending the vacation with his daughter pre-teen daughter Sophie.
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Director: Charlotte Wells

Writer: Charlotte Wells

Starring: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Kayleigh Coleman, Sally Messham, Harry Perdios, Ethan Smith, Ruby Thompson, Brooklyn Toulson

Year: 2022

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: UK, US

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