Set in 1945, immediately after W.W. II, it’s a love triangle involving a stiff-upper-lip English couple and the anguished German architect whose palatial home on the banks of the Elbe River the British Army has requisitioned.
Conscientious Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke), who plays an integral part in bombed-out Hamburg’s postwar rebuilding effort, is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his wife, Rachael (Keira Knightley), from England during a bitterly cold winter.
But Rachael is stunned to discover that her altruistic husband has refused to evict the previous owner, courteous widower Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgard) and his troubled teenage daughter, Freda (Flora Thiemann), allowing them to take up residence in the attic.
Since the death of their eleven year-old son in the London blitz, Rachael has loathed all Germans and there’s a great deal of unspoken tension between her and silent, stoic Lewis, whose complex assignment involves “de-Nazification,” determining which Germans were Nazi sympathizers and which were not.
Inevitably, given her uptight husband’s long absences and Stefan’s compassionate nature, vulnerable, isolated Rachael turns to sensitive Stefan for companionship and comfort as their stealthy, adulterous sexual tension mounts.
Adapting Rhidian Brook’s 2013 best-seller with Joe Schrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, director James Kent has simplified or eliminated many of the secondary characters who enriched the story and the dialogue is ridiculously simplistic. A contrived subplot involving displaced Nazi youth during the British occupation lacks the necessary intensity.
It’s disappointing particularly since James Kent’s debut feature, Testament of Youth,” was so much more effective, also tackling the subject of love-during-wartime.
On the other hand, German cinematographer Franz Lustig takes full advantage of the authentic atmospheric details: period production design and elegant costumes.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, The Aftermath is a stiff, soapy 6. Yet. so much potential is squandered