This film continues two trends in Hollywood. The annual historical drama quota of Keira Knightley and the long list of cuckold characters of Jason Clarke.
Synopsis: In 1946 Rachael Morgan arrives in the ruins of Hamburg to be reunited with her husband, Lewis, who is a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. As they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that Lewis has made an unexpected decision: They will be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower and his troubled daughter. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal. (Fox Searchlight)
Starring: Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgard
Director: James Kent
Writers: Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 109 mins
Directed by James Kent, The Aftermath follows the story of Rachael Morgan (Knightley), a British woman, who arrives in the ruins of Hamburg months after the war ended. She is reunited with her husband Lewis (Clarke), a British colonel entrusted with helping to rebuild the city. She is uneasy being in a hostile country. To make matters worse she is forced to share her new home with its previous owners, a German architect and widower Stefan (Skarsgard) and his daughter. With her husband’s focus on saving the city, this neglected wife finds herself draw to those she once despised.
Hollywood seems to have four or five war-time films released each year, but they become more formulaic as time goes on. The Aftermath does exactly that by downplaying its stronger elements to focus on an underdeveloped and predictable storyline. The first hour of set up is beautifully done. It sets the tone of story using the backdrop of the ruins of Hamburg. British soldiers are still at conflict with the rebellious locals as Germans try to unbury the rubble of their city.
This setting mixed with the resentment of two sides needing to work together after years of war, destruction and death is a strong backbone for a post-war story. Unfortunately, this set up and themes are cast aside for the more boring and shallowly written love triangle. The story becomes tonally off with an inability to decide whether it wants to be a historical or romantic drama.
The three actors do admirably in their roles, although Skarsgard’s accent wears a little thin. Clarke is the scene-stealer of this film delivering his best damaged husband role yet. He is the standard cuckold husband actor, but here the character feels more layered than others on his resume. Knightley has a few notable scenes, but it isn’t anything acting wise that we haven’t seen from her. Not even more Knightley nipple, which there is a lot of here, can save this story.
Overall, The Aftermath is a slow, passionless romantic drama that never hits its stride in either of its genres. While it has some decent performances, deviates from the typical war-time story and dives into some post-war themes, the shallow writing, bland characters and inconsistent tone make for a boring, forgettable affair. It seemed to enjoy having most of its impactful drama happen off-screen.
On top of writing content for this site, I also post videos on my YouTube channel The Film Fanatic where we discuss movie and TV reviews, movie recommendations, countdown lists and more! Head on over and join the Fanatic family!