I usually say that I’ve already seen enough World War II movies for a lifetime. It is a good thing then that The Aftermath is not really a war movie. As the name implies, the story starts after the end of the conflict, more precisely five months later, when Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley, from Atonement, The Imitation Game) moves to Hamburg to reunite with her husband, Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke, from Mudbound, Zero Dark Thirty).
The British official is leading the city's reconstruction efforts, and the couple moves to the beautiful house of the German architect Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgard, from Big Little Lies, True Blood). Although Lubert and his teenage daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann) are supposed to leave their home, the colonel proposes that both families share the house, allowing father and daughter to occupy the attic.
Rachael initially objects to her husband decision to let Lubert and Freda live with them, after all they are Germans. As they live in the same house, though, we see through her eyes the tones of grey that start to emerge from the war’s black and white world. And in Colonel Morgan’s commitment to his work, it becomes clear how much harder it gets, once the conflict is over, to think of those on the other side - specially the civilians caught up in all the fighting and destruction - as simply the enemy.
Unfortunately, as Rachael mentions at some point, “we are talking about the war, nobody really wins it.” And yet, in a way The Aftermath is an optimist film, despite the revelations that throughout the movie give us a glimpse of how each of those characters was profoundly affected by the war. That encounter in post-war Hamburg is their zero hour, as Lubert puts it, when everything can start again and healing can finally begin.
The Aftermath, based on a novel by the Welsh writer Rhidian Brook and directed by James Kent, is now available in movie theaters.
- Lalu Farias