The Aftermath, 2019.
Directed by James Kent.
Starring Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Jannik Schümann, Kate Phillips and Martin Compston.
It’s 1946 in postwar Germany, a country bruised by the fallout of Hitler’s regime, and into this world arrives Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley), to be reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke). While he’s rebuilding the decimated city of Hamburg, she is left at home in an uncomfortable houseshare with a German widower (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter.
The ingredients were in place for this WWII romance to deliver a layered, fractious, and sexy dangerous liaison; a geopolitical backdrop, a brooding man about the house tryst, and a tragic backstory for each of the main players.
Sadly, once the pieces are in place, The Aftermath plays out like the plot of a charity shop novella that your Gran picked up in search of some mild titillation. That’s not to say it’s a bad film. Testament of Youth‘s James Kent frames the story beautifully, making the most of the bleak surroundings in which to put these sad spectres, all embodied perfectly well by a trio of fine actors. It’s just all a bit join-the-dots and lacking in passion, which for a story built on trying to rekindle that emotion as its driving force, results in an affair of the bland variety.
As the stranger in a strange land, Knightley portrays a woman seemingly as cold as the landscape in which she has been dropped, with the ease of an actor who has spent more time in stately homes than a second cousin to the Royal Family. Initially smothered by grief and prejudice, her arc might feel a little rushed, with the script speeding towards her awakening, but even on cruise-control Knightley is a captivating screen presence who’s able to bring depth to the slightest of stories.
Her relationship with Clarke’s buttoned up husband provides the more interesting relationship shades, whereas the one with Skarsgård, who’s reduced to the role of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, cutting wood as she longingly gazes at him through the window, feels little more than a passionless daydream.
The most interesting thread can be found away from the predictable mechanics of the love-triangle, and focuses on Skarsgård’s daughter, as she begins her own forbidden romance with a member of Hitler’s underground army. It provides more tension and intrigue than the headline act.
There’s an interesting story to be found somewhere in the darker recesses of The Aftermath, but the film tends to be more concerned with the lightweight dalliances of its rather dull central characters, to leave any aftermath of its own with the audience. Perfectly fine. Perfectly forgettable.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt