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article imageReview: ‘The Aftermath’ discovers a fine line between love and hate Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 21, 2019 in Entertainment
‘The Aftermath’ is a period romance that unfolds in 1946 Germany under a dark cloud of grief and resentment as everyone tries to rebuild after the war.
There are many things that can put a strain on a relationship. While it may be able to endure one stressor, more than that can cause irreparable damage and forcibly sever even the strongest bond. Examples of these burdens include death, war, distance, betrayal and blame — any one of which can create a rift that is widened with each additional problem. Perhaps most unfortunately, people can begin to drift without even realizing it’s happening until it’s too late and there’s nothing left but unsalvageable remains. The Aftermath takes place following several devastating events, the most significant being World War II.
After the Allied victory, British Col. Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) is stationed in Hamburg, Germany to aid in the rebuilding process. After spending months, if not years, apart, his wife, Rachael (Keira Knightley), comes to join him from London. They are assigned the lavish home of an architect-turned-machine-worker, Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård), though he and his teenaged daughter (Flora Thiemann) are still living there as they await other arrangements. Tensions are high all-around. Stephen does his best to play ball for fear of the repercussions, though his daughter is less eager to hide her bitterness. Rachael wants nothing to do with the Germans and resents living with/amongst them, while Lewis pities the civilians left to clean up the Nazis’ mess. But hate can turn to love and eventually Stephen and Rachael find they have more in common than they thought.
The title has several meanings in the context of the film. The obvious one is dealing with the outcome of the war. The Allies extensively bombed Germany before claiming victory, leaving most of the cities in rubble. Months later, people diligently continue to sift through the debris in search of bodies. As all Germans were deemed complicit until proven otherwise, Stephen loses his upper-class status and must invite the opposing military into his home with a smile in an ironic reversal of fortune. There are also two deaths looming over the film’s characters as those affected struggle to live with their grief and possibly move forward.
It often feels like everyone in the film is wearing a mask, concealing their true feelings. Lewis did his duty during the war as a loyal soldier must, but once it was over he could no longer see enemies — just more victims. Rachael harbours a deep anger she only reveals in private, though her friends are led to believe she has a perfect marriage and home. Stephen, similarly, has cause to be infuriated about his situation, but even more reason to plaster on a smile and pretend everything is fine. For this reason, the rare instances in which the trio is truly themselves are even more momentous.
The fact that Rachael and Stephen engage in an affair is not surprising as that is generally the path these types of narratives take. However, the ending delivers a blow by daring to be different and then backing out at the last possible moment. This choice to be conventional is the most disappointing aspect of the film, which is an otherwise standard period romance.
Director: James Kent
Starring: Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgård
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