• Film

Paul Mescal at “Aftersun” screening: “This is profoundly moving to me.”

There is no doubt that Paul Mescal is a popular name in Hollywood right now. The 27-year-old Irish Oscar nominee presented his film Aftersun at the American Cinematheque Aero Theatre in Santa Monica for a full house and with a long line of hopeful attendees outside on Montana Avenue.

“This is profoundly moving for me to have 450 people come here and watch a movie that I love,” he said, during the Q&A after the screening. “I would never want this to feel normal. I don’t think it is.”

Aftersun is a small indie film and the debut feature film of Scottish writer and director Charlotte Wells. It premiered at Cannes Critics Week and was released through A24 in October in the US. So far, it has made a little more than USD 5 million in worldwide box office.

“The thing I am the most proud of is that the fact that you are all here tonight because it shows that there is an appetite for a film like this. And there should be.”  

In Aftersun, Paul Mescal plays the young, struggling single dad Calum, who suffers from depression. Despite being on a lovely vacation with his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) at a beautiful beach resort in Turkey, he cannot escape whatever is tormenting him.


“I am not a father,” says Mescal. “But I was not particularly worried about that, because I am lucky to have a relationship with my dad and love is love is love is love. So, to love somebody ultimate feels the same regardless of the actual dynamic of the relationship. Or that is what I leant on, because it was all I could lean on.”

The film is told via the memories of the now adult daughter, who looks back on the vacation and reflects on what her father was going through at the time. Charlotte Wells has described it as emotionally autobiographical.

“There was a desire to be as truthful to the source material,” says Mescal. “Calum was someone I fell in love with the minute I started reading it and I wanted to do him justice as who I think he was. The power is in the writing. She wrote somebody who is very easy to love.”

The character reminded Mescal of Arthur Miller’s character Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

“He has this idea of himself versus the reality of what he is living and that to me is the worst tragedy of all things because you have this person who is so desperately fighting to present an idea to himself and his daughter but then he has these micro-failures as the film progresses.”

Paul Mescal’s big break was only three years ago with the TV-series adaptation of Irish writer Sally Rooney’s Normal People in which he plays the sporty heartthrob Connell, who falls for the intellectual Marianne. He then appeared in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter in which he plays a towel boy on a beach resort. He also starred in God’s Creatures in which he plays a young man, who is under suspicion of having raped a local woman in a small Irish seaside town. But the experience with Charlotte Wells was special.

“If Charlotte will continue to have me,” he says about continuing to work with the Scottish director in the future. “I will stay on that train as long as she will have me until she realizes I am a fraud! I love her so much. She is a wonderful director and an even more impressive human being. I am convinced that she is never going to make a bad film.”

Mescal is currently to be seen on the London stage in a production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”. He will start shooting Ridley Scott’s Gladiator 2 in Europe this summer.

But the next stop for this rising star is the Oscars.