The Aftermath

Review: The Aftermath

29 May 19

Keira Knightley is wasted in this Skarsgard affair

Keira Knightley has already impressed me this year with one of my favourite films of the year so far, Colette. So when I came out of the theatre after that film and spotted the poster for this film, it was instantly in my list of movies to check out as soon as possible. Luckily for me, the local cinema was doing a sneak peek for the long Easter weekend, so I got to check out The Aftermath early as it doesn't officially release for two more weeks (May 2nd). What I saw this time around, however, left me feeling underwhelmed.

The film follows two families (one British and one German) that are sharing a house in war-torn Hamburg mere months after the end of World War II. All entities involved, both families and the city itself, have all suffered extreme losses and leads to what should be some severe tension between all parties. Loss is the driving factor of tension and drama in the film, but for some reason, the script didn't feel it was necessary to fully develop these portions of the story.

More emphasis needed to be made on the relationship between Keira Knightley and Jason Clarke's characters, as their relationship is the crux of the film. Instead, so little time is spent developing the family situation that the budding romantic angle gathers no sympathy from the audience. You are left feeling sympathy for the absent party because their role was not fleshed out enough to make him out as the wedge in the initial relationship. It touches on their reasonings and justifications but fails to delve into anything that could take away from the surface-level romantic affair.

The Aftermath is a simple, clichéd, romantic drama. It follows all the usual beats which make the film incredibly predictable. There were a few attempts to widen the scope of the film, but those additional arcs end up going nowhere (the role of the German daughter is largely redundant). There is no depth to the characters and minimal development throughout the film. While Jason Clarke does warm into his role by the third act and provides a backstory that you can engage with and understand, Alexander Skarsgård's role in the film is nothing but eye-candy.

Yet Skarsgård is not the worst performance. Knightley, unfortunately, takes that mantle of dishonour jumping from one extreme to the other coming across more bi-polar than anything else. With the film running only 108 minutes, perhaps some scenes were left on the editing room floor, but in the end, Knightley's performance feels rushed and lacks any sense of authenticity (despite the fact that her role is quite similar to that in Colette). This isn't helped by inconsistent pacing in the film which doesn't adequately communicate how much time has passed in the film; it could be years, it could be months, or it could just be 10 days. It's rather hard to gauge.

On the upside, the film has good production values and some really cinematic shots that take place in the city of Hamburg. The location shooting and great outfits and vehicles all come together to create a setting that feels right out of the wars. An accurate aesthetic is not enough to save this film, however, and the uninteresting story that avoids delving into any deep emotional wells leaves The Aftermath feeling empty and inconsequential.