James Kent (“Testament of Youth”) directs another period piece. This one focuses on WWII Reconstruction entitled “The Aftermath.” Despite a promising beginning, James Kent gives this film a soap opera treatment that almost feels like a bodice ripper. The drama is diminished in favor of longing looks and averted glances.
It is 1946 in Hamburg. Lewis (Jason Clarke) is a British colonel in charge of revitalizing the city. Lewis arrives with his wife Rachael (Keira Knightley) to take possession of a German mansion with servants, much to the dismay of the owner, Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård).
Lewis is a military man of few words who rules by his physical bearing, all business. With his wife, however, he is oddly passive. Lewis and Rachael lost their son due to a bomb blast during the war while Lubert lost his wife. Rachael bristles at the sight of lingering Lubert and his petulant daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann). She does not want them in the main room.
Meanwhile outside the grounds, things are dangerous. There are fights, protests and lootings. A young German POW gets gunned down because he does not halt when ordered, in a manner of execution similar to the Nazis.
If Kent had stayed with this historical tone about the crisis of a post war Hamburg, this would have been a solid and entrancing study.
But the minute Rachael is left alone for a couple days, Lubert and Rachael have a conversation and it is suddenly küsse die Stadt (kiss city). Then Rachael and Lubert go at it on the Bauhaus table.
There is a subplot involving bratty Freda getting romantic with an unrepentant Nazi teen (Jannik Schümann) who plans to shoot Lewis. But the teen is drawn so sketchily that he fails to generate intrigue.
There is some actual solid chemistry between Knightley and Skarsgård. The only flaw is the by-the-book melodrama and Jason Clarke’s role which feels stricken by anemia. All of the furtive touches and breathy exhalations prove a tease with a pace that feels like television.
Despite some historical pathos, “The Aftermath” is a decidedly weak affair.
By film’s end, every character, even the daring Rachael, becomes resigned and listless.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org