‘Aftersun’ director Charlotte Wells on The xx’s ‘Brave for You’

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‘Aftersun’ director Charlotte Wells says that the lyrics at the end of The xx’s “Brave for you” struck a chord with her in terms of how she thought about writing the film. Credit: Emma McIntyre

During the screenwriting process for the acclaimed father-daughter drama “Aftersun,” director Charlotte Wells found inspiration in the song “Brave for You” by UK indie/alt-R&B trio The xx.

The track, from the group’s third album I See You, became a conduit for Wells to delve into her feelings and questions surrounding her relationship with her own father, which in turn helped her develop the film. 

Wells took care for music to leave an indelible mark on “Aftersun” — her debut feature —  which includes a rich pop soundtrack and an original score composed by Oliver Oates. 

Actor Paul Mescal, who plays Frankie Corio’s father in the film, has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category.

Listen more: Director Charlotte Wells on her subconscious finding its way into her films

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

[“Brave for you”] played on their third album, which was released in 2017 [and] it was released just after I made my last short film, “Blue Christmas.” I remember subjecting the whole crew to much of their music, and I was so excited about the release of this album. 

It is predominantly sung by Romy Madley Croft, who's one of the two lead vocalists from The xx, and there are lyrics at the end of the song that just struck such a chord in terms of thinking about “Aftersun.” There are ways in which this song really became, not an anthem for me while writing, necessarily, but certainly a piece of art in another form that felt like it was expressing something very similar.

More: Watch The xx live on KCRW at Apogee Studio (2017)

Something I really envy about musicians and songwriters is that I think the feeling of the song is something that I was kind of grasping at over the course of the 96 minutes runtime of “Aftersun.” And the end of the song, which kind of breaks in tone a little bit from the rest, goes like this:

“There were things I wish I didn't know / I try my best to let them go.”

In the context of grief, losing people, losing parents, that was something that resonated, and ultimately was, I think, expressed through “Aftersun” — through the right sequences, through the ways in which I, without intending to at first, wrote myself into this film and wrote my journey of writing it and confronting questions about my dad that I hadn't ever been willing to do, and to look places I hadn't been willing to look.



Rebecca Mooney