‘Aftersun’ ending explained: What happened to Calum?
(Credit: Netflix)


‘Aftersun’ ending explained: What happened to Calum?

In the past couple of years, Paul Mescal has earned the status of an indie heartthrob. However, he had his breakout moment in Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun, an incredibly moving portrayal of a father and daughter’s relationship. 

With a stellar cast, including Mescal himself alongside Frankie Corio, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022 and earned Wells a Caméra d’Or nomination. Wells won the Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer at the 76th BAFTA Awards, and Mescal earned an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination at the 95th Academy Awards. The film was declared one of the top films of 2022 by Sight and Sound as well as the National Board of Review.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of a Turkish holiday, Aftersun follows Calum and his daughter Sophie on their journey. While on the surface, their vacation appears idyllic, the slow shadows of cracks emerge soon enough. Calum, portrayed with haunting authenticity by Mescal, grapples with depression that he struggles to conceal from Sophie. me

Aftersun is currently streaming on Netflix in select countries. It is a must-watch if you happen to have access to it. The film’s ending invites viewers to interpret its meaning in their own way. If you walk away with more questions than answers, our ending explainer can help.

What happens at the end of Aftersun?

As Aftersun draws to a close, you are left pondering the fate of its characters, particularly Calum. The film’s ending is open to interpretation. On their final night in Turkey, Calum and Sophie share a bittersweet moment at an outdoor disco, dancing to the iconic strains of Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’. Throughout the film, subtle hints suggest that Calum is depressed, his inner turmoil thinly concealed behind a facade of normalcy. The lyrics of ‘Under Pressure’ highlight Calum’s internal anguish. It even hints at a tragic outcome for him.

​​The next day, Calum sees Sophie off at the airport. In the present day, an adult Sophie, now married with a child, revisits her memories from the vacation. As she rewatches the footage she shot on her camcorder, we can see the moments when Calum was under strain—both mentally and financially. It is not mentioned if he gives into the despair by ending his life, by disappearing, or by becoming more emotionally distant as the years go by. But it is evident that Sophie is trying to figure her father out through the remnants of her hazy memories of him.

Throughout the film, in sporadic dream-like scenes, adult Sophie finds herself at a bustling rave, glimpsing Calum dancing away amid the flashing neon lights. Despite her efforts to reach him, she only briefly and desperately manages to embrace him before he slips away. 

The film concludes with Calum, back in Turkey, walking down an empty airport corridor after sending off Sophie. Instead of walking out, Calum enters the room with the rave, destined to dance away the misery all on his own. Or at least that is how Sophie would remember him.

You can watch Aftersun on Netflix and catch the trailer here: