Sunday, June 23, 2019

Video review: "The Aftermath"

“The Aftermath” came and went without making much of an impact on critics or the box office, but for my money it’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year. It’s a tragic romance starring Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgård as damaged people caught in a love triangle in post-WWII Germany.

I use “caught” deliberately, because unlike most movies in this oeuvre, which tend to focus on lovers swept away by their passions, here it really feels like all three are in some way trapped. Love does not set them free, but is the instrument of their doom.

Sad films seem to have fallen out of favor these days; here’s a prime example underlining their worth.

As the story opens, Rachel Morgan (Knightley) is joining her husband at his new military posting in Hamburg, overseeing the rebuilding of the war-ravaged city. It’s their first meeting since the war began; Lewis (Clarke) did not even return home for the funeral of their son.

Their estrangement is fueled by the presence of Stephen Lupert (Skarsgård), an architect whose house has been given over to the British Army to be the Morgans’ living quarters. Life is squalid for most Germans, toiling at clearing the bomb-flattened terrain and scrimping for food, so Lewis offers to let Stephen and his teen daughter continue to live in the attic.

At first, Rachel and Stephen are antagonistic, reflecting the resentfulness of the Germans -- someone of whom openly pine for the return of the Nazi regime. Lewis is actually more sympathetic to their plight than most of his fellow officers. But his attitude changes as his wife grows closer to the man above.

The acting is uniformly terrific, especially Clarke. He’s been doing great leading-man work in small movies most people didn’t see, including this and “Chappaquiddick.” He gives rich shadings and depth to a character who could have come across as very distant and emotionally unavailable.

Bring a hanky, but give “The Aftermath” a try. Rarely has sad been so good.

Video extras aren’t abundant, but the features it does have are substantial. They include a feature-length commentary track by director James Kent; deleted scenes with more commentary; a “First Look” feature; and VFX progressions of how they depicted war-torn Hamburg, also with commentary.



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