The Aftermath is a guilty pleasure film with pretty period piece production, the excellence of Keira Knightley, and a steamy romance in a vulnerable Germany.
Following the allied victory of World War 2, British soldiers are tasked with the project of rebuilding the decimated city of Hamburg. During this project, the British are given stead in German homes, including the project’s leader, Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke). Morgan’s wife, Rachael (Knightley), arrives in Hamburg, and struggles to adapt to her new situation. Meanwhile, the German owner of the house, Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård), is allowed to remain in the house with his daughter, much to Rachael’s surprise. While Lewis is always out working, tension is left to build between Rachael and Lupert at home.
Colette was a fantastic period piece which came out last year starring Keira Knightley. Hoping it would repeat Colette’s success, I was intrigued by The Aftermath. While I did enjoy watching this film, I must admit it doesn’t reach the levels of wit and intelligence Colette did; the film plays out more like your mother’s beach novel. The romance that develops between Rachael and Lupert begins abruptly, and quickly becomes intense. They are both victims of loss, and while that is a sensible foundation for their connection, the effect loss has had on them, especially for Lupert, could’ve been further explored. The biggest limiting factor of the film, is its writing; the script feels flat and there are too many moments where the characters begin to say something and then stop, leaving you wanting to finish their sentences. It’s as if a piece of music was playing and did not finish on a resolving note, creating this disruptive feeling.
Not only are there finely crafted costumes and elegant interiors period piece fans will be able to enjoy, the film does something else interesting with its setting. Most World War 2 films like to focus on events during the war, or leading up to, but what about shortly after? The Aftermath explores a German perspective following the war and concerns itself with the struggles Germans faced in the wake of their country’s destruction. The film does not ignore the existence of Nazis thereafter, nor the hardships of the allies, but does offer a light not often shined in Hollywood.
In the German home, there is an old Steinway piano. Rachael, a bit of a pianist herself, sometimes will sit down and play it. My favorite scene of the movie is where Rachael starts to play Clair de Lune, in the blue night shadows, and begins to reminisce of her past in London. This scene turns into the most powerful moment of the film and showcases when Keira Knightley is at her best. Overall, the acting in the film is fine, however limited by the writing. To copy and paste from my Pet Sematary review, Jason Clarke is solid. Skarsgård is stoic, being the rock Rachael needs when she becomes overwhelmed with emotion.
I liked The Aftermath more than I should have, but then again, it had my name written all over it, so take this review with a grain of salt. 7.5/10