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Aftersun's Paul Mescal on the 'potentially toxic' issue of men not looking after their mental health

In his new film, Paul Mescal plays Calum, a Scottish 20-something divorcee attempting to raise his child while hiding his growing mental health issues.

The actor first played a character struggling with his mental health in his breakout BAFTA-winning performance in the 2020 hit TV show Normal People.

Now, he has told Sky News the casting choices were not accidental.

"It's purposeful insofar as it's a territory that I find is challenging and rich to perform in - and what it says about me and why I'm attracted to it, I don't really know, but I enjoy it," he said.

"I think it is something that men of my generation are coming around to, the idea of talking about their feelings and going to therapy.

"But Calum I think is part of that generation of man that maybe didn't - and I think it's important to illustrate that that can be damaging. Potentially toxic."

A coming-of-age drama, Aftersun is set in the nostalgia of the 1990s and centres on a father-daughter duo as they spend a summer holiday away at an all-inclusive resort in Turkey.

Although Mescal's character is seen laughing with his daughter when swimming in the sea or singing karaoke, in private moments he is shown drinking, smoking and crying, and at one point standing precariously on a balcony.

Director Charlotte Wells says Mescal brought something special to the role.

"I think that Paul has this innate warmth and sense of being quite stable and solid that felt really necessary for the character, in that his struggles with mental health [are] unveiled carefully and slowly over the course of the film," she said. "He is a person who, for the most part, successfully hides that part of himself from his daughter."

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The film is Wells's directorial debut and based on her own childhood experiences.

Mescal admits it got him thinking about his own relationship with his parents.

"I think the whole film centres around memory and how we remember our parents as like a child versus when we have a little bit of perspective," he said.

"I can relate to the feeling of not truly knowing my parents when I was 10 and 11 and now as a 26-year-old, that relationship has changed."

Aftersun is out in cinemas on 18 November