Keira Knightley, one of today’s most respected actors and known for her award-winning role in “Pride and Prejudice” who also starred in acclaimed films “Imitation Game,” “Atonement” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, delivers once again a finely calibrated portrayal in the thrilling romantic drama “The Aftermath” with Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgård.
Based on an untold moment in history, “The Aftermath” is set in postwar Germany in 1946. Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives in the ruins of Hamburg during the bitter winter, to be reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But as they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that Lewis has made an unexpected decision: They will be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower, Stephan Lubert (Alexander) and his troubled daughter.
Rachael and Stephan’s wounded souls find themselves in the grips of a reluctant attraction that pulls them ever closer to one another. Finally, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal, changing the course of their lives forever. As the other man in Rachael’s orbit is Stephan is the dignified German architect who comes between the British couple, played by Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård, who won an Emmy for his fearsome depiction of an abusive husband in 2017’s Big Little Lies. “Lubert is a very sophisticated man, very intelligent, and highly educated,” Skarsgård says. “But he’s a broken man. He has lost almost everything—his beloved wife Claudia, his job, and his house. In a way, he’s lost his daughter Freda because she blames him for the death of her mother. He is struggling to reach her and connect with her.”
For Knightley, “The Aftermath” is an intimate story about a woman who, having suffered a cataclysmic experience, finds a way to rebuild her life and move toward a more hopeful future. But it’s also a film with a larger message about the importance of forgiveness, compassion, and the fundamental need for human connection.
Knightley interprets the trajectory of Rachael and Lubert’s relationship as almost inevitable because of the personal tragedy they have in common, and their understandable desperation to deal with their all-consuming grief. “You want to feel something other than the incredible pain that you’re in, so I think sex comes into that quite a lot,” Knightley says. “The relationship with Lubert begins with a sexual need. But also he’s somebody who understands what she’s going through and will confront it, as opposed to her husband, whose way of dealing with his grief is to simply not talk about it, to shut down and not in any way give her the support that she needs. That pushes her into finding solace somewhere else.”
From Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox, “The Aftermath” opens on March 13 exclusive at Megaworld Lifestyle Malls Cinemas – Newport, Eastwood, Venice, Uptown BGC, Southwoods, Lucky Chinatown and Festive Walk.