Politically, there were winners at the end of the war, but on the human level, there was so much lost on all sides. British housewife Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) is joining her officer husband Lewis (Jason Clarke) in Hamburg, Germany. It’s 1945, not too long after Germany’s surrender, and the British are occupying the city, sorting through the literal and figurative rubble of a country and people brought to their knees. The locals are not necessarily receiving kindly the help of soldiers that were so recently their enemy.
Things are a little more awkward when the Morgans, as occupiers, move into a local estate that is, well, still occupied by its German owner, the architect Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) and his teenage daughter. Though initially expected to move out and leave their huge house to the Morgans, they all come to a polite agreement that the Luberts can continue in the house, as long as they are in the drafty upstairs and stay out of the way, especially around super-testy Rachael.
Lewis is often away and is emotionally distant. Rachael is grieving the emotionally unresolved loss of their son in a London bombing raid. And Lubert is, well, looking hot and widowed and German. You can sense where this is all going as soon as the beautiful people (Knightley and Skarsgård) first lock eyes.
The Aftermath is a slow burn. Actually, a bit too slow and not much of a whiff of fire. It is probably not the fault of the actors that despite the snowflakes and the fireplace and the stacks of firewood, that there is not a lot of heat between the two. Their affair is predictable, and in a couple scenes a little too soft-porny.
What is more interesting is the story taking place in the oft-ignored period right after the war. This was an era probably rife with shell shock and delayed grief. The two best scenes in The Aftermath are when Clarke and Knightley’s characters separately break down, struggling to accept what happened to their son. These moments were much more interesting than the torrid affair that was the centerpiece of the story.
The Aftermath is a benign, unmemorable war romance. Well, let me take that back. The most memorable thing about it was Alexander Skarsgård’s notably impressive wardrobe of sweaters (my move companion noted this as well). Take screenshots of every sweater change, replete with snowy backdrop or tasteful furniture (the movie does look great), and you’d have a fine catalog of winter wear for your next ski vacation.
Unfortunately, there is not a featurette about Skarsgård’s lovely winter-weather. Instead, there is an commentary by director James Kent, plus a handful of deleted scenes, VFX Progressions, First Look, and a gallery.