The first Fox film to be distributed following Disney’s acquisition comes from the prestige label, Fox Searchlight. The Aftermath is a World War II period film starring Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), Alexander Skarsgård, and Jason Clarke. 2019 may mark the 25th anniversary of Fox Searchlight, but The Aftermath is no cause for celebration.
Rachel (Knightley) reunites with her high ranking husband in Hamburg as the British military attempts to restore order in post-war Germany. They reside in the home of a german architect (Skarsgård) and tensions run high as the military sorts out who is and isn’t a Nazi. But as Rachel’s marriage falls apart, her attraction to her host may provide exactly what’s been missing in her life.
Wartorn Hamburg is the unromantic backdrop for an affair that will make you cringe. The film does a great job transporting the audience back to such a scary time and place. Through Jason Clarke’s character, we get to see moments of real bravery and humanity. But scenes of soldiers uncovering decaying bodies in the ruble are set against intimate moments.
Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgård both sell their attraction and sexual tension with great skill. Both of their characters have suffered losses and neither have had the emotional fulfillment needed to fill the void. Their affair is plausible, but Jason Clarke plays such an upstanding character that you feel his betrayal as the romance plays out.
The Aftermath has a unique setting and a compelling premise, but the main problem is that there’s no satisfying way to recover from it. Once the affair starts, you realize that no matter how the film ends it won’t leave you with good feelings. I can attest to exiting the theater feeling empty and hollow inside.
Fox Searchlight is known for producing amazing, award-winning films. While The Aftermath is a dud, it’s still exciting to have this brand under the Disney umbrella. The studio has produced spectacular movies including Slumdog Millionaire, Birdman, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Black Swan, Napoleon Dynamite, Waitress, Garden State, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Shape of Water. They also gave Keira Knightley her big break with Bend It Like Beckham.
If you like period dramas with steamy forbidden sex scenes, then The Aftermath is for you. But if you need more resolution and emotional fulfillment from a picture, then stay away. If you’re looking for great World War II Fox films, I recommend The Longest Day, Twelve O’Clock High, and Tora! Tora! Tora!
I give The Aftermath 2 out of 5 Steinway Pianos.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.