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Dan's Review: "The Aftermath" nothing more than meaningless passion

Mar 29, 2019 11:28AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, and Keira Knightley in The Aftermath - © 2019 Fox Searchlight.

The Aftermath (Fox Searchlight)

Rated R for sexual content/nudity, and violence including some disturbing images.

Starring Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Flora Thiemann, Fionn O'Shea, Kate Phillips, Martin Compston, Alexander Scheer, Anna Katharina Schimrigk.

Written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, based on the book by Rhidian Brook.

Directed by James Kent.



All’s fair in love and war – and post-war, it seems. It’s also fair to suggest that World War II is the gift that keeps on giving to writers and filmmakers, offering all kinds of fodder for drama and romanticism. If you’re an actor of any note, there’s a good chance you’ve appeared in at least one WWII period drama, and perhaps more than a handful. Keira Knightly has been in a few, and her latest is the film adaptation of Rhidian Brook’s novel, The Aftermath.

Knightly plays Rachael, the wife of Lewis (Jason Clarke) a British officer assigned to keep the Hamburg, Germany locals in check during the winter of 1945, directly following the end of the war. Rachael joins Lewis in Hamburg where they occupy the home of Stefan (Alexander Skarsgård), an architect that somehow got through the war without becoming a Nazi. Stefan’s teenage daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann) also lives in the attic with her father. Rather than throw Stefan and Freda out to live in a refugee camp, Lewis suggests allowing the Germans to stay in their home, despite Rachael’s despise for Germans, due to the death of the couple’s son, killed by a bomb during the London Blitzkrieg. Stefan has his own reasons to hate the British since his wife was killed by a bomb near the end of the war. Tensions flare between Rachael and Stefan whenever Lewis is away on military business, culminating in an extramarital sexual affair. The troubles behind the relationship between Rachael and Lewis come to light, especially in the way Lewis abandoned his wife in the business of the war (even when he didn’t have to) to grieve by herself after the death of their son. Eventually, Rachael must decide whether to run away with Stefan or try to fix things with Lewis. Meanwhile, Freda gets involved with local Nazi survivors out for revenge.

The Aftermath doesn’t offer much for reflection or deep thoughts on love, romance, war or relationships. It’s pretty much a soap opera full of passion and void of anything else. The most sympathetic character and performance belongs to Jason Clarke, playing a man who loves his wife but doesn’t know how to grieve. Other than that, there’s mostly a bunch of foreplay into a meaningless sexual relationship and an ambiguous finale in The Aftermath, making it one of the more forgettable period dramas in a string of many.

"The Aftermath" Trailer