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October 7, 2019

The Aftermath (2019) --- “In The Aftermath Of War, The Last Thing She Expected To Find Was Love.”

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     It’s 1946, about 5 months after the Allied forces won WW2 and Rachel Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives to the ruins of Hamburg, Germany to be reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But after arriving at their lavish and requisitioned new home, Rachel is stunned to learn that Lewis has made the startling decision: share the grand house with its previous owners, recent widower Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) and his teenage daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann), instead of sending them to a refugee camp. Rachel is not overly thrilled with the arrangement and treats Stefan with barely disguised disdain. But while her husband is busy with his duties, Rachel and Stefan slowly begin to bond over their shared grief and soon a passionate love affair takes place. Now, Rachel must make a decision that will change her life forever: Does she stay with her husband, who is growing more distant by the day? Or does she run away with a man who his offering to give her the love she has been craving for?  
     Based on the book by Rhidian Brook (Atlantis: End of the World), who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Shrapnel (Race, Frankie & Alice) and Anna Waterhouse (Race, Frankie & Alice), and directed by James Kent (Testament of Youth), The Aftermath (2019) sells itself as a romantic drama but is instead a story about grief and recovery. The historical aspect of the story is interesting considering that most films during the  WW2 era follow the war rather than the tentative few months following Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s surrender. Here we essentially see the aftermath of WW2. We see a city in ruin, burned bodies trapped under rubble, food shortages, and a growing sense of unrest that forces angry men known as “88” to go against the British occupiers which in turn puts everyone on edge. In addition, the story is effective in its demonstration on how each of the characters cope with grief in four different ways: 1) Some keep it locked away and never confront it, hoping that by ignoring then it will be as if it never happened. 2) Some lock it away so tightly that the  pressure builds until one day that person explodes. 3) Some occupy their time with helping others, in order to distract themselves from the pain for a little while. And finally 4) some let their anger guide them into making rash and illogical decisions. By the end, the story reaches a rushed, bittersweet, and slightly melodramatic conclusion that, despite its flaws, feels appropriate to the story. Of course, the film could have done more in the romance department but the exceptional cinematography and the profound depiction of war’s traumatic casualties - both mentally and physically - make The Aftermath a powerful and unforgettable film. 
     The cast performances were solid but deserved more story than what they were given. Keira Knightley’s (Official Secrets) performance as Rachel Morgan is strong when she plays the cold and grief stricken mother but a little lacking when she plays the lover. It felt more like she was going through the motions rather than fully committing to delivering a fully focused performance. Alexander Skarsgård’s (Big Little Lies) performance as Stefan Lubert is great but I feel as if his talents were underutilized here. He is not given room to demonstrate the complicated and haunted aspects of his character, which would have made him an interesting character and showcased his talents. Jason Clarke (Pet Sematary) is slightly less appealing as the stolid, reserved, and distant  Colonel Lewis Morgan but this works to help sell the relationship between Rachel and Stefan as believable concept. However, in his efforts, he also comes across as one dimensional that makes you wonder what Rachel sees in him. The rest of the cast - Fionn O’Shea (Innocent) as Major Barker, Kate Phillips (Peaky Blinders) as Susan, Martin Compston (Mary, Queen of Scots) as Burnham, and Flora Thiemann (Nelly’s Adventure) as Freda Lubert - are great in their respective performances.
     Overall, The Aftermath (2019) is a second-rate melodramatic film that was more entertaining than expected. The story could have used more romantic elements but the historical side is incredible along with the exceptional cinematography and the profound depiction of war’s traumatic casualties - both mentally and physically - which help carry the film to the end. The story reaches a rushed and bittersweet ending that is surprisingly appropriate for the film. The cast performances were solid in their depiction on how the characters deal with grief but they deserved to be expanded upon better. All in all, this was a good film, not the best nor did is effectively utilize the actors’ talents, but it was still entertaining to the end.

Final Vote --- 6.3 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar
Alone in Berlin (2016)
Aftermath (2019)
The Exception (2016)
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A Little Chaos (2014)
Mission of Honnor (2018)
Operation Finale (2018)
The Ottoman Lieutenant (2017)
Remember (2015)
Suite Francaise (2014)
The Silence of the Sea (2004)
Tulip Fever (2017)
Testament of Youth (2014)

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