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2 Very Different Parent-Daughter Movies

We went to two movies this weekend. Surprisingly, they were both about parents and children. Other than that, they were wildly different.

(Spoiler alert: I’m about to say things about both Everywhere Everything All at Once and Aftersun. If you care, stop now.)

Everything Everywhere All at Once is an Oscar contender, starring Michelle Yeoh, who discovers that the fate of the universe — actually the multiverse – wrests on her shoulders. And said fate rests on her ability to connect meaningfully with her young adult daughter, Joy.

Aftersun is an Indie film about a dad (Paul Mescal, who is great) and 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio, who was even better), who go on a vacation to a budget Turkish resort in the ‘90s. It’s sweet, sad and intimate, and one step less than understated (much is simply unstated or unremarked upon) — and it flashes ahead to Sophie in the future, to give you a sense of the consequences and ripples of connection over time.

I enjoyed both, probably enjoyed Aftersun a bit more and, as a parent, I’m grappling with the two films. I think they both spoke to the gosh-darn durability of experience, of love.

It means the opposite, that it ALL matters, that you never know how the pieces fit together and what is the crucial decision.

Worlds Big and Small

In EEAAO, Joy’s experience with the immensity of the multiverse leads her to believe that nothing matters, that even universal cataclysms are at best a brief headline on the endless scroll of the multiverse broadcast (“Breaking news: Multiverse #1,232,030,828,047,234,001 has been extinguished. Cause unknown”). And at the end of the movie, her mom seems to agree with her. The multiverse is bigger than big. Anything that happens in it is by nature infinitesimal. Meaningless.

But, I don’t know … I think that the immensity of the universe doesn’t mean that everything is meaningless. It means the opposite, that it ALL matters, that you never know how the pieces fit together and what is the crucial decision. And because of that, you need to be present, to payt attention, to bring your best … because it might matter. And even if it doesn’t in the broad play of the universe, it does in your universe. In you. I think the movie supports that read as easily as the adolescent, nihilistic one. I walked out feeling like I was one step ahead of a very smart Evelyn in what had been a very smart movie.

With Aftersun, I was a step behind. Paul Mescal’s Calum Paterson is so obviously haunted and at risk, you sense it early on, it’s confirmed later, and that just makes his time with Sophie achingly special and beautiful. He knows it. He is someone you wish could survive his 20s and 30s, but the movie (and Calum himself) lets you know he didn’t. The loss presses upon this movie in this awful, wonderful way. The film’s creator and director, Charlotte Wells, deserves a prize of some kind. I don’t know how much is personal and how much is an imaginative, artistic achievement. Either way, it’s powerful.

One last thought

If you saw EEAAO, I’m curious what happens if Evelyn trusts in her daughter’s creation and walks into the bagel with Joy. Am I crazy to think they both walk out the other side, and maybe are even better for it? Maybe Joy becomes an optimist. Regardless, Joy’s intentions grow less apocalyptic virtually every minute of the movie.

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