Film review, by Jason Day, of The Aftermath, the WWII drama about a neglected English woman who starts a passionate affair with the German man. Starring Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgard.
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Shortly after WWII and the bombing of Hamburg, the English Rachel Morgan (Keira Knightley) and her Army Officer husband Lewis (Jason Clarke) are moved into the mansion of wealthy German widower Stefan (Alexander Skarsgard) and his daughter Freda (Flora Thieman). Although both are resentful of the new owners, they remain quiet and prepare to move out to an internment camp.
Lewis, who is more sympathetic to their plight than his wife, relents and allows them to stay.
Rachel, who is mourning the loss of her young son in a London bombing raid, is soon neglected by Lewis as he works furiously to capture and interrogate members of a notorious vicious Nazi group. Rachel and Stefan, left alone, glower at each other but soon become close and begin to fall in love.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
(Alexander Skarsgard)…is like an orgasmic Relate officer.
I’ve blogged before about my admiration for Keira Knightley as an actress.
I’ve seen a fair few of her movies and didn’t always feel like this. Certainly, in the earlier years of her career, she gave some horrible performances in some awful, throw-away roles. Her annoying, perpetually chirpy young wife in Love, Actually (2003) standing out the most.
But then something happened. Either she grew up and started selecting better roles, or she acquired a new agent who sent her better scripts, or maybe she used those early parts as training to do better.
Very possibly it was a combination of all three, but something very definitely started happening in 2007, when she cast off the amateur, coffers-bulging Pirates of the Caribbean series and gave a much-praised lead in Atonement.
Since then she has proved again and again how confidently she can command centre stage, without ever hogging the screen and dig deep into her character, so deep in fact you’d have to almost dig her out again.
In The Aftermath, she gives a numbing, bombshell turn as Rachel, a woman whose emotional desolation at the loss of her son mirrors that which has been wreaked on Hamburg by British airmen.
Think she’s a cold English M’Lady, snootily ordering the owners of her new home to live in the attic and telling them their furniture is crap?
Think again and watch the scene where she breaks down about the death of her son, sobbing uncontrollably, full-on tears, runny nose, trembling from the shoulders down.
Is Knightley turning into the English Meryl Streep? With magnificent acting like this, it won’t be hard.
Strapping Skarsgard inhabits the muscular body she collapses into – an entirely understandable reaction. A sexy and soulful actor – it’s all in the eyes for this man – it’s good to see that he is also maturing as a performer.
It’s also not lost on the audience that he literally fucks an earthquake into the Morgan’s torpid marriage by giving Rachel the passion she so desperately wants from her husband. He’s like a orgasmic Relate officer.
Clarke’s emotionally constipated husband rounds off a nuanced and believable trio.
Director James Kent has form with helming war-time romances that tug furiously at the heart-strings, after the WWI-set Testament of Youth (2014), so he’s on sure ground here.
Concentrating on the little, telling, occurrences in this uncomfortable set-up – Rachel can’t sit properly in Skarsgard’s modern armchair; his little rebellion about their presence by moving a vase so it is in the centre of a table; Rachel’s friend Susan’s (Kate Phillips) arch looks whenever Stefan is discussed – he builds up neatly until the affair commences with superb reason.
Contrasting the annihilation of Hamburg – a ruin of a city – that is being rebuilt with the intact splendour of Stefan’s house, whose occupants are crumbling inside, lends extra piquancy to this tale of devastation, emotionally and architecturally – ironically, Stefan’s profession which has been taken from him by Allied forces.
Cast & credits
Director: James Kent. 1hr 48mins/108mins. Amusement Park Films/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Scott Free Productions. (15)
Producers: Jack Arbuthnott, Malte Grunert, Ridley Scott.
Writers: Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse.
Camera: Franz Lustig.
Music: Martin Phipps.
Sets: Sonja Klaus.
Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgard, Jason Clarke, Flora Thiemann, MArtin Compston, Kate Phillips, Jannik Schumann, Alexander Scheer.