How do families in a war zone ever hope to recover from the loss of a loved one when their city is bombed?
The Aftermath plays out like an average TV soap opera that surprises with a meaningful, emotional ending. At least you have a reward for resisting the urge to leave the film early.
The movie takes place in Hamburg six months after the end of WWII in 1945. The multi-talented Keira Knightley plays Rachael Morgan, a wife in a dying marriage who has left London to join her husband Lewis, a British Colonel put in charge of the city’s reconstruction. As Ms. Knightley has demonstrated in such wildly entertaining movies as Begin Again (2013) and last year’s Colette, she pounces on every performance in a fashion seldom achieved by any other actress.
Here, however, her decaying marriage is not helped when she learns that she and her husband are now to occupy an undamaged mansion owned and occupied by a young Hamburg German resident and his teenage daughter. Alexander Skarsgård, who many of you may have seen in his wonderful role as Tarzan in the film released in 2016, plays the attractive homeowner who is trying to wrestle with the loss of his wife in an Allied bombing of Hamburg that has left he and his daughter devastated. Unfortunately, the expected occurs when he and Ms. Knightley gradually develop a hot affair that leaves both wrestling over their future. The best parts of the film are the scenes involving their sensual sexual encounters.
However, great sex or not, this is where the movie resembles a soap opera. Jason Clarke, coming off his lackluster performance in the regrettable Pet Sematary, plays Ms. Knightley’s straight-laced husband, a soldier trying to deal with the unrest in Hamburg while ignoring an emotionally troubled wife. Like it or not, the movie drags on as you watch a British couple growing increasingly alienated over the loss of their daughter while an honorable German citizen watches his daughter take to dangerous places on the street while he tries to escape the memory of his lost wife.
Nonetheless, and while I can’t give it away, the movie saves itself with its ending. Decent people find a way to use emotional devastation as a bridge to an honorable future. Put another way, as I left the theatre I mumbled, “Well, at least it wasn’t a complete waste of time.”