The Aftermath Review – Electrifying Post World War II Drama Delivers Captivating Performances

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The Aftermath, from FOX Searchlight and Scott Free Productions, presents the story of new beginnings, deep hatred, hope, healing, anguish, and unending heartache against the backdrop of a barren, bombed out, wasteland when a seedling of renewal appears.

Directed by James Kent, The Aftermath stars Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke, Alexander Skarsgard, Flora Thiemann, Frederick Preston, Martin Compston, Fionn O'Shea, Kate Phillips and based on the book of the same name written by Rhidian Brook. 

The film begins with the view from the air of explosions hitting targets. Popping like the fourth of July fireworks, huge orange fireballs dot the black night sky. The camera pans across a ruined city, shelled out buildings, groups digging through the rubble, hoping to find the missing or anything that will help get them through this Post World War II struggle.


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Allied forces have taken Germany and now here, in Hamburg, 1946, Captain Lewis Morgan, played by Jason Clarke, is in charge. Rounding up rebels, interrogating hostiles and determining active or local threats in addition to general peacekeeping duties, keeping his own men calm against the insidious former Third Reich.

We meet Rachel Morgan, played by Keira Knightley, as she rides silently on the train. The chilly welcome she receives causes a moment of wonder. Were they friends? Lovers? Why no deep embrace as other reunited couples display on the train platform?

Soon, a British solider driving the commander arrives at a beautiful home on the suburbs of Hamburg, in a place untouched by Allied bombing raids. Intact, the home has been confiscated by the British government for Commander Morgan and his wife.

Owned by a well-known architect, Stephen Lubert played by Alexander Skarsgard, who still lives there with his daughter Freda, played by Flora Thiemann. Beautifully decorated and well kept, the home also comes with a domestic staff.


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With chaos and pandemonium, hunger, fear, frustration and shock from the years of lies told to them by Hitler, the refugee camps are overrun, cold and inhumane, Lewis explains to his Rachel, even as he is attempting to ask her, that he feels the Stephen and Freda should be allowed to stay on, live in the house, on the top floor, the attic, away from the main house, offering compassion to a compassion-less people, friendship diplomacy, a way to help rebuild.

Stunned that he would even suggest that they continue to live in the home she nonetheless goes along with him. Attempting to make the house feel somewhat more hers, she rearranges a few pieces. She knows no German and feels incredibly uncomfortable. Her intuition is right as we see the staff is less than enthusiastic about her living in the home.

After a strenuous day of interrogation by the Allied officers, Stephen returns home only to have Rachel explain her feelings over the living arrangement and he should stay in the attic as was the agreement. The conversation escalates quickly with Lubert challenging her and finally screaming "tell us to leave and I'll give you good reason." What follows is the beginning of the second act.


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The Aftermath is a beautiful film, well-acted, with a well written story that adds well defined character arcs. The dichotomies, parallel themes, run throughout. Even the starkness and barren city and the lush, beautifully decorated home. Each instance is coupled with a similarity.

The film is impressive and notable. War sedates everyone dulling the conscience. All have lost someone, and each know an unending grief. As the film moves into the second act Rachel and Stephen are left alone with Captain Lewis called away. Passion erupts and forbidden fruit gives an illusion of safety, happiness, security, fulfillment.

The film oddly seems geometrical in design, with the triangle of Rachel, Stephen and Lewis, and more so the triangle that circles around Captain Lewis, Freda and her lover who desires to remain devoted to the Third Reich.

The cast is brilliant. Jason Clarke, who seems to be showing up in greater frequency, nailed his role and was able to capture the emotions on each level, that of a solider, of a leader, a husband, of a man who suffers unimaginable loss. He was exceptional.


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Keira Knightley delivers an extraordinary performance holding on to her marriage by a frayed thread. The loss of normalcy deteriorates her resolve. Alexander Skarsgard, who is a chameleon in his appearance, is equally impressive. The cast is solid, hitting all the right notes, creating a passionate, romantic, loving and destructive story.

The Aftermath is adrenaline-charged, an exciting, emotional journey with the cast adding colors, layers, building life from the very well written story. Prepare to be captivated.

The Aftermath opens March 15, 2019. See it.

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