Updated: Feb 8
In the aftermath of World War II, soldier Lewis brings his wife, Rachael, with him to Germany on his mission to help clean up the country. They move into the large home of a German man, Stephen Lubert, and his teenage daughter, Freda. Lewis is nice to them, while Rachael is cold. Then, when Lewis is on one of his many trips away, Rachael begins to bond with their “host.” This leads to an attraction that changes all of their lives.
That is the story of The Aftermath, a dull and silly melodrama with a good cast and good production. It is a beautiful looking movie, but it is really just a soapy romance disguised as, well, a lot of other things. This is a busy screenplay considering the main plot is so slight. The characters behave in exactly the way that is convenient at any given time. WWII is mostly used as a backdrop to give these three people enough grief to fuel their love triangle. What is even worse is the lack of chemistry between the stars. I could not believe Rachael’s attraction to either of them.
I will begin with the strong cast. Jason Clarke, in his second movie I am reviewing this week (in both of them, he plays a character named Lewis married to a woman named Rachael), is the kindhearted, neglectful, soldier. He is a friendly, what you see is what you get, type of guy, an interesting choice for this story. Unfortunately, he turns into a dullard with nothing to say when he is with his wife. Clarke is a talented actor, however there is not much he can do with that limitation.
Alexander Skarsgård is Lubert. I was going to add some description to that, but there really is not any. He is a widower with a teenage daughter he does not share much screen time with. That is basically it. Though I usually like Skarsgård, here it seems he was only cast because he is a good looking guy. His primary job is to stand around being handsome, something he is quite capable of.
So that leaves Keira Knightley as the grieving Rachael. Knightley gave one of her best performances in last year’s Colette. Here, she is the central character whose desires set the story in motion. While I did not believe her passion for the two men, I did believe her as the lonely soldier’s wife. Unlike her male counterparts, she does get to have motivations beyond the physical. Too bad those scenes do not end up meaning much. None of the actors can make The Aftermath come alive.
The filmmakers certainly put a lot of care into the look. Most of it takes place at the house, a spacious, brightly lit space, big enough so the characters can have privacy and small enough so they keep bumping into each other. Seeing as this is a glossy romance, a great deal of energy was put into the costumes, specifically Knightley’s dresses. Clarke is mainly in uniform and Skarsgård wears a button-down, but Knightley has a large wardrobe that stands out in nearly every scene. This genre is generally marketed toward women, so it makes sense there would be an emphasis on eye-catching outfits for the female star. It is probably the best thing about the movie.
The Aftermath (based on the 2013 novel by co-screenwriter Rhidian Brook) is a wartime romance that does not care about the war and is unable to create a compelling romance. It is an attractive production that drags along for 103 minutes (minus the end credits). There is just nothing of interest going on for the majority of that time. I am not the type of viewer who tends to pay attention to costumes. So when that is the aspect I enjoyed the most, it means the movie was a bore.
1¾ out of 5
Keira Knightley as Rachael Morgan
Jason Clarke as Lewis Morgan
Alexander Skarsgård as Stephen Lubert
Flora Thiemann as Freda Lubert
Directed by James Kent
Screenplay by Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse and Rhidian Brook