Ewan Gleadow

Film Review: The Aftermath

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Copryight: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The settings and time period that The Aftermath takes place in is a nightmare for a former student of history. It’s sort of like being thrown back into the splattered remnants of information I can remember from a two-year crash course on post-war Germany and its impact on the country. The Aftermath attempts to express this in the most uselessly ham-fisted way imaginable. A period piece, so you know Keira Knightley will appear, The Aftermath is a strange experience that banks on one good performance the whole way through and thoroughly believes that this is enough to make the film a worthwhile viewing. For those interested in a light drama set in World War Two, you’ll be thinking The Aftermath is the perfect film for you. It’s not. 

Knightley stars alongside Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgård as Rachel Morgan, a British woman who arrives in Hamburg to stay at the house of a German father and daughter just after the end of the Second World War. Tensions within the household are high given the military position of her husband, Lewis (Clarke).  

The best-case scenario for a film as predictable as The Aftermath is that it can be light fluff, a bit of entertainment that won’t make the mind work all that hard. The perfect film to watch after a long day or just before you head to sleep. It’ll certainly help you sleep I’d say that much, because The Aftermath is so thoroughly boring and oddly simplistic. You can see exactly where the story is going right from the second Knightley arrives in Hamburg. Thankfully her performance does provide at least some use to this film existing, a solid performance trapped in an unsurprisingly poor piece of film.  

Outside of Knightley’s solid performance, there isn’t really much The Aftermath can offer its audience. Director James Kent has floundered in mediocrity for most of his career, yet his work here seems to be the best he has available. Stock standard camera movement, the same unshaken feeling that the film lost a hefty chunk of its budget on cast alone, and then for whatever reason have them do nothing for much of the movie. It’s a film that looks to build, break and rebuild a number of relationships between characters we’ve never met in only a matter of ninety minutes. It can’t be done, not least by someone with little experience of worthy filmmaking.  

Kent directs a script full of contrite ideas and basic errors that have eroded the dramatic, romantic period piece in a slew of awful cliché and ridiculous exposition that looks to give reason to the irrational behaviours of its characters. They like depth, they feel two dimensional and as such the story suffers. Surely more could’ve been done to prevent such a bland piece of film, yet The Aftermath feels rather comfortable toiling around in its own mediocrity. 

A film without any real purpose or presence in film, The Aftermath is a completely forgettable nothing. It’s hard not to watch this and not see its resemblance, themes and ideas in other, better pieces of film, television and literature. A story that has been done many times over and in such better fashion. Knightley’s starring role is the only decent part of an otherwise terrible film, with the rest of the cast suffering under a script devoid of life. The Aftermath’s attempts at tear jerking moments feel blank, much like the rest of the film.