The Aftermath

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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The British seem to be a nostalgic lot, looking back on love-in-wartime stories as if recalling a more noble epoch when they were young and reckless, lost in the aftermath of military triumphs. A blend of romance and sprawling human tragedy.

“Testament of Youth” was such a reverie. “Atonement” too. And now we have “The Aftermath.”

Director James Kent has assembled all the elements: Keira Knightley, Brits stationed abroad, a winter in 1946 Germany, and temptation.

Here, Rachel (Knightley) joins her husband Col. Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) in post-war Hamburg. Morgan is charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But when Rachel arrives at the grand house assigned to them, she discovered it is jointly occupied by the previous owner (Alexander Skarsgård) and his daughter (Flora Li Thiemann). Despite her husband’s compassion, she finds this situation of cohabitation slightly off-putting.

Stefan Lubert and his daughter Fiona are relegated to the attic; the Colonel and Rachel get the roomy downstairs. Spoils of war, ol’ chap.

Predictably, this proximity produces more than tensions.

What do you expect when you put a troubled English married couple and a dreamy German widower under one roof? There’s a white-hot sex scene (you knew it had to come), one that’s fairly extreme for staid British fare.

“The Aftermath” is facing its heartbreaks with a stiff upper lip this week at Tropic Cinema.

This film proceeds with a slow simmer, building to a boil. Although based on a book by Rhidian Brook, writers Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse have simplified the movie’s storyline, deleting extraneous characters, focusing more on the ménage à trois.

Given Rachel’s estranged relationship with her husband and his constant absences, it’s only a matter of time until the icy relationship between her and the German architect begin to thaw.

At the same time we glimpse a subplot of daughter Fiona becoming radicalized by an underground Nazi guerrilla.

The story supposedly is inspired by a chapter of the author’s family history. Maybe there’s more than a stiff upper lip going on here.

Merchant Ivory used to give us romantic dramas like “A Room With a View,” “Howards End,” and “The Remains of the Day.” And The Weinstein Company brought us several proper British films – “The King’s Speech,” “The Iron Lady,” “Philomena.” All rather tame when it comes to sex scenes.

But with Harvey Weinstein’s sex life revealed, maybe the Brits are now saying me too.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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