The Aftermath (15)***

Dir: James Kent

With: Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke

Runtime: 109 minutes

HAMBURG, soon after the end of the Second World War. After the dropping of tens of thousands of bombs the city lies in ruins, the remaining residents left to pick through the rubble in the search for their loved ones. Pockets of resistance remain, with attacks on Allied soldiers frequent.

Arriving from London is Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley), the wife of a British Army officer. Lewis (Jason Clarke) has been given the palatial home of a once prominent architect, Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgard), but rather than see them homeless, decent cove Lewis allows Lubert and his teenage daughter to stay. Soon the house has been divided into “zones”, like some domestic post-war Berlin, but how long will the walls stay up?

Adapted from the novel by Rhidian Brook and directed by James Kent (Testament of Youth), The Aftermath looks sumptuous, and one never tires of seeing Keira Knightley in period garb. The era is fascinating, too, providing a glimpse of history not that well covered.

Just a pity, then, that the initially brisk and intriguing tone becomes softer, more Mills & Boon romantic, as the clock ticks on. Fine if that is what you are after, rather sugary if not. Solid performances all round though, particularly from Clarke, the soldier nursing a epic grief the best he can.


Dir: Elizabeth Chomko

With: Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Taissa Farmiga

Runtime: 101 minutes

BASED on writer-director Elizabeth Chomko’s observations of her grandparents, What They Had is a poignant study of a fractured family coming to terms with surrendering a loved one to Alzheimer’s.

Her script packs an unexpectedly meaty emotional wallop as characters repeatedly avert their gaze from the painful reality of their situation.

Chomko shoots predominantly inside a family home where years of resentment and regret have seeped into the walls, and photographs of happier times litter downstairs rooms.

Inevitable heartache is deftly balanced with humour to dissipate tension.

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon and Robert Forster elevate familiar and potentially cloying material, capturing the spiky rat-a-tat of dialogue between kin, who know each other too well but turn a blind eye to their own failings.