Who do you trust?
It’s a rainy Saturday night and you’re in the mood to go to a movie. If you live in a major city, you have many choices of where to see a film and what to see. Do you rely on word of mouth? Is there a newspaper with a reviewer you trust? Or, like many Americans, do you simply pull up Rotten Tomatoes? If that’s the case–you’d likely miss out on this fine film, The Aftermath.
Keira Knightley has made a career of emotionally-riveting performances in period pieces. How you feel about this film will depend on your affinity for her, for foreign films set during war time, and complicated storylines featuring fraught romances. Will you trust me that this trio of well-regarded actors create nuanced characters, that the screenplay based on the book by Rhidian Brook presents a side of World War II that’s a different perspective than Americans are used to, and that the costumes and production design are phenomenal? Or will you believe the reviews on Rotten Tomato?
Director James Kent introduces this story of a British Colonel and his distraught wife with falling bombs. After an awkward train station greeting that reveals their discomfort, we see the devastation of Hamberg as they travel to their new home. The contrast between the visiting British military–the Victors, and the citizens–the war victims, still digging thru the rubble in the streets is starkly drawn. The couple, played by Keira Knightly and Jason Clarke spy a mother combing her daughter’s hair thru a bombed out apartment wall. Cut to the view of a beautiful mansion in the snow. The door opens to their new home–the luxurious manor home of a German architect (Alexander Skarsgård) filled with art and modern furniture.
Instead of the typical American film where the backstory is feed to us upfront, in The Aftermath, we discover each person’s tragedy as the story unfolds. The movie trailer reveals the steamy romance at the center of the story but it’s the Hitler youth and the tragedy of the young men lost on both sides of the war that is the central narrative. The daughter of the architect, Freda, played by a remarkable Flora Thiemann suffers the lose of her mother, then must see her home stolen from her family as she’s forced to live in the attic. How can she trust that her father will take of her?
The film wants us to think about how the British Military was sent to start Reconstruction when the city was full of starving, grieving displaced families that didn’t want them there and viewed them as the enemy. Would you trust the people who bombed your city to help you? How does a family grieve? How does a city grieve?
Alexander Skarsgård is the handsome star that will draw an audience. It’s Jason Clarke, who’s performance as the Colonel who’s had to bury his humanity to survive the evils of war, that deserves the attention. I left this film feeling like I’d had a history lesson but also experienced how war and tragedy changes us all. Trust me, it’s worth a watch.
Drinks with Films Review: 4 glasses of purloined German wine (out of 5)