The Aftermath: Film Review

I thought Keira Knightley was terrific in Colette so I was intrigued to see what she followed it up with – and while she puts in another stellar performance in The Aftermath, the film itself is weak and just OK.

The film is set in Hamburg, Germany, in 1946, in the aftermath of the Second World War. Rachael (Knightley) has arrived in Hamburg to join her British husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a colonel helping put the country back together again. Instead of kicking the Germans out of the house they wish to live in, Clarke makes the unusual decision of letting architect Stefan (Alexander Skarsgard) and his daughter Heike (Anna Katharina Schimrigk) stay with them, albeit on a different floor. Clarke is away a lot on business and Knightley is left at home, and although she feels initially uncomfortable around the Germans – considering Stefan is being investigated for being a Nazi – feelings start to develop.

The film, based on a novel by Rhidian Brook, was nice enough and a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours but I found it just all a bit meh. I found it hard to care for anybody – which isn’t a good sign considering this is a film about a love triangle. Surely you should pick sides and decide who she should be with? I initially thought she should be with Stefan because I enjoyed seeing their friendship and then romance develop but by the end I truly wasn’t bothered which is wild since it got pretty melodramatic.

Knightley was excellent once again as the unsatisfied, grieving wife who keeps being left home alone in a foreign country with the ‘enemy’ close by. It was clear her and Lewis’ shared grief (which I won’t spoil) had created a barrier between them and they were struggling to reconnect. Her performance was strong and captivating (and her style was also great) while Clarke got some emotional heavy lifting to do towards the end. However, I didn’t really buy his British accent and I felt he slipped back into Aussie on occasion. Skarsgard basically just did some brooding, smouldering work as a grieving widower but he did it very well.

The post-war setting was interesting because you don’t see many films based in that period and the premise – an English couple living in a house with a potential Nazi – was promising but it went down a weaker path. It’s a shame that the story focussed on the love triangle because I thought the question of Stefan being a Nazi was way more interesting.

The performances were good but the romance story didn’t grip me, despite an interesting set up. The stakes weren’t real enough, the plot turns were soapy and over the top and when asked what I thought, I was like, ‘Yeah, it was alright’. Says it all.

In cinemas from Friday 29th February 

(Rating: 3/5)

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