Film Picks: Aftersun, The Night Owl and Irma Vep

In the drama Aftersun, Sophie (Frankie Corio) and Calum (Paul Mescal) are a daughter and father on holiday. PHOTO: SARAH MAKHARINE

Aftersun (M18)

102 minutes, now showing at The Projector

4 stars

How well do you know your parents? It is a simple question, complicated by the boundaries that parents draw up around themselves, lines that children know better than to cross.

At a Turkish resort favoured by British tourists on a budget, 11-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) and her father Calum (Paul Mescal) spend their days sunning themselves and swimming. They have a glorious time, but she senses a heaviness in his heart, a weight that she will think back on for the rest of her life.

Scottish writer-director Charlotte Wells takes on this question in this evocative account of a father-daughter holiday in Turkey.

Most of the story is shown from a child’s point of view. Sophie’s encounter with the cool, older kids, for example, is filtered through her pre-teen desires and anxieties.

But at the edges of her perception, Wells inserts information that the older Sophie will observe and understand. Did those things actually happen or are they the work of a mind trying to tell itself a story that makes sense?

Scottish actress Corio has won acclaim for her portrayal of the thoughtful Sophie, and rightly so. Making her acting debut, she disappears into the role of a child, sensing that her father is not like the other fathers. There is not a second in her performance that feels like an actor has delivered a line. – John Lui

The Night Owl (PG13)

Ryu Jun-yeol in The Night Owl is underestimated by everyone because of his visual disability. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

118 minutes, now showing

4 stars

South Korean writer-director An Tae-jin’s feature debut – a huge domestic hit– constructs a supremely tense dynastic thriller by adding a fictive acupuncturist character to historical events surrounding a famously shocking incident.

Crown prince So-hyun was found dead in 1645, presumably killed by poison.

Royal acupuncturist Gyeong-su (Ryu Jun-yeol) is underestimated by everyone because of his visual disability, but his other senses are acute. He hears all that passes behind the palace walls.

And he is nimble with his needles, using them ingeniously in a manner not prescribed in any traditional Chinese medicine manual to deliver justice after exposing a vast political conspiracy involving the king (Yoo Hae-jin), his physician (Choi Moo-sung) and the premier (Jo Sung-ha).

There are betrayals and beheadings amid the bloodthirsty power struggle.

What can a commoner do when his own life is at stake? Who would even believe a blind man as a witness?

This is a movie of rich ironies, with Gyeong-su a deeply sympathetic hero in his courage and decency. – Whang Yee Ling

Irma Vep (M18)

Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung in which she dons a catsuit to play the thief and spy of the film’s title. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

99 minutes, limited screenings at The Projector

In 1996, French film-maker Olivier Assayas made this affectionate send-up of the French film industry in which Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung plays Maggie Cheung, a Hong Kong actress cast in a French feature of this film’s title.

As filming progresses, things begin to unravel. The director Rene Vidal (Jean-Pierre Leaud) has creative meltdowns, personal clashes threaten to derail the production and Cheung begins exhibiting quirky behaviour.

The comedy-drama is screening as part of the For The Love Of Cinema programme, featuring five films that celebrate cinema.

The slate also comprises Korean drama Tale Of Cinema (2005), drama Babylon (2022), cult comedy The Room (2003) and semi-autobiographical Steven Spielberg drama, The Fabelmans (2022). – John Lui

Where: Projector X: Picturehouse, 05-01 The Cathay, 2 Handy Road; and The Projector, 05-00 Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road
MRT: Picturehouse – Dhoby Ghaut; The Projector – Nicoll Highway
When: Sunday, 5.30pm; Jan 23, 5.30pm; Jan 28, 8.30pm
Admission: $15 for standard, $11 to $13 for concessions

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