The Aftermath


Opening Friday, Apr. 5

Handsome, old-fashioned, and dull, the period drama The Aftermath takes us to postwar Germany in 1946, just a few months after V-E Day. Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) is the British officer tasked with overseeing the shattered city of Hamburg. Lewis sends for his wife Rachel (Keira Knightley) and the reunited couple takes over a stately country mansion from German civilian Stephen (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled teenage daughter, who are kicked up into the attic. Awkward.

Both families have endured tragedy in the war. Stephen’s wife was killed in the firebombing of Hamburg, and Rachel lost a child in London during the Blitz. A forbidden love triangle develops as the three leads discover that the movie they’re in is actually a fairly ridiculous melodrama with good lighting.

Skarsgård and Knightley are beautiful indeed in several scenes of torrid passion, but the characterizations are flimsy, and the pacing is all wrong. Rachel abandons her hatred of Germans with alarming haste once Stephen turns on the old Teutonic charm. (To be fair, Skarsgård’s smoldering gaze is a force of nature.) And poor Jason Clarke just can’t keep up his end of the triangle. He’s clearly going for some kind of noble British stoicism, like Ralph Fiennes circa 1998, but he just doesn’t have the charisma.

Director James Kent lingers on every corny image: Rachel playing piano in the blue light of dusk, Stephen splitting logs in a cable-knit sweater. Kent does color in the corners nicely, though. Supporting characters include a scary Nazi saboteur and a mean-drunk British intelligence officer. I kept hoping the film would follow those guys, who feel like real characters in a real story. Knightley and company just feel like movie stars in a script.