“If you catch it on a movie channel, a plane, or the Hallmark Channel (where quite honestly it belongs), check it out. Otherwise, this is one I would skip.”
The best part of ‘The Aftermath‘ was the scenery. Let’s start there and unpack how this film that should work falls flat. In 1946 post-war Germany, Rachel (Keira Knightly) arrives to reconnect with her military husband, Lewis (Jason Clarke). Lewis is a British Colonel who, along with the allied forces, is attempting to rebuild Hamburg, which has all but been destroyed. The two take over the gorgeous home of Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård), a widowed architect, and his terrible daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann). Over Rachel’s pleadings, Lewis allows Stephen and Freda to stay (albeit Anne Frank style in the attack) and thus begins the slow, sad soap opera that is ‘The Aftermath‘.
I didn’t read Rhidian Brook’s novel but I can see where this would be a much better book than a film. This story really needs character development to build, dissect, and unravel what makes the main characters tick. You just don’t get that here. There isn’t enough time and yet you feel like it’s dragging on, all at the same time. It ends up feeling trite; like a bad love triangle that you can certainly wait to watch when it comes to Netflix.
What propels people together and pushes them apart is grief. The Aftermath is both what happens after the war, and also what’s left of these people after tragedy. Rachel and Lewis lost their son to a bombing in London and Stephen lost his wife to a bombing in Hamburg. None of them have dealt with their loss and all three are struggling to find comfort and understanding in a world that doesn’t quite make sense. Rachel and Lewis aren’t the same since the death of their child, and that familiar trope is what ultimately drives her into the arms of the stranger she hated so much just moments prior. She felt alone and Stephen was there. Lewis is by far the most likeable character, the one with a heart, the one you know just can’t bring himself to face the loss.
I was most shocked that he became more and more attractive as the movie went on. I started out saying obviously she should choose Stephen with his perfect sweaters and boyish good looks, and by the end, I was like please leave this child and return to Lewis who is clearly the right choice regardless of his lack of wardrobe and smoking habit. Stephen’s character, much like Rachel, is quick to jump into new beginnings and move on, regardless of how his child feels or how it impacts others.
Rachel is the worst. She changes her mind over and over, leaving people in her wake to deal with the choices she has made. Understandably she is suffering, but I was frustrated with how flippant they made her seem. There is some nudity thrown in- so if you are a fan boy- there is that. So what’s good? The costumes, the sets, the scenery. Not a reason to pay for the movie in my opinion. If you catch it on a movie channel, a plane, or the Hallmark Channel (where quite honestly it belongs), check it out. Otherwise, this is one I would skip.