Review: ‘Aftersun,’ one of the year’s great debut films, is a piercing father-daughter story of loss and guilt
Aftersun, a film of such intense power that almost defies human comprehension, made it onto my best-of-2015 list before the end of the year. It started as a short film before being released as a feature in January, and went on to win numerous awards and be nominated for a slew of others. It’s a profoundly beautiful film, and a film that, at the very least, should be seen by everyone who’s interested in a true story.
Aftersun is the story of Sakutarou (Mina Naito) and Koutarou (Yusuke Kamenashi), a father and daughter married before Sakutarou dies in a car crash. The young couple move to different addresses a year after meeting, but Koutarou goes to meet Sakutarou’s old friend. To the surprise of both, she’s still living with Sakutarou. Sakutarou dies suddenly that same year, and Koutarou is left with a very young child and a grief-stricken mother.
In time, Koutarou has a new roommate at work and finds herself thinking about Sakutarou often. But Koutarou also starts having recurring nightmares and, at one point, confides her story of grief in a therapist. The film then cuts to Koutarou and Sakutarou in real life; the younger man is a successful corporate executive living a wealthy life in Tokyo, and Sakutarou, a widow who lives alone in the countryside.
Koutarou’s family comes in time, and she begins to get herself together. Then, on the anniversary of Sakutarou’s death, she travels back to the small village where Sakutarou lived. And she finds her old friend. The film is, naturally, a complex one, but I think the most important part of it is that Koutarou learns