A major improvement over his previous film, the mediocre WWI drama Testament of Youth, director James Kent hops ahead one global military conflict with The Aftermath and reaps the benefits of a more gripping story, a superior cast, and an overall elevated confidence behind the camera.
Cementing his status as modern cinema’s go-to cuckold, Jason Clarke (Pet Sematary) rounds out his big double-feature weekend of playing characters named Lewis with wives named Rachael, albeit ones with slightly different spellings.
As a British officer on assignment in Hamburg, this time he deals not with reanimated cats but occupied Germans struggling to cope with their new Allied leaders six months after VE Day, plus a generally loveless marriage to his long-suffering wife (Keira Knightley), a rift spurred by a believable but somewhat cliché tragedy.
These tensions intersect at the lavish repossessed home of former architect Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) and his anti-Brit teenage daughter Freda (German actress Flora Thiemann), whose lingering presence in their small upstairs quarters lends a pleasant, mild suspense to the sumptuous but potentially stuffy period imagery.
In the process of adjusting to their new living arrangements and with Lewis busy at work, an appealing chemistry develops between Rachael and Herr Lubert, whose awkward, overlong stares at one another mature into a believable bond between lovesick souls.
Though slightly undermined by a weak thread involving Freda’s infatuation with a resilient Hitler Youth and the familiarity of Knightley in yet another bygone era, the purported enemies’ relationship ably carries the film and earns viewer support as it attempts to withstand a barrage of threats.
Grade: B. Rated R. Now playing at the Fine Arts Theatre
(Photo by David Appleby: © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)