World War II has offered Hollywood studios a treasure trove of stories to convert into powerful narratives of survival, heroics, horrific battles and lives shattered by the brutality of war.
The Aftermath uses the months following the end of the war to investigate its destructive nature.
Among the physical rubble of buildings and homes and the decimated lives of the people living in that rubble, we meet British Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke), who has been assigned to oversee the re-establishment of order upon the shattered city of Hamburg, and Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley), his wife, who enters the scene unaware of the utter devastation she is about to encounter.
Residents of Hamburg and survivors of the intense bombing search for family members they cannot find and who, in most probability, have died in the barrage of bombs that was unleashed on Hamburg.
Hamburg's surviving residents bear an intense hatred towards the British. Pockets of resistance also still exist among German residents who brandish a tattoo on their skin with the number 88, a symbol of their belief in and support for Adolph Hitler.
The British occupiers, both soldiers and civilians, carry a dislike, if not hatred, for the German population for their complicity in the German war effort, regardless of their commitment or abhorrence of Hitler and the Nazis.
Among the external battles between occupying forces and the local citizens, deep emotional entanglements surface as a result of personal loss in Rachael's and Lewis's lives. This is exacerbated when the colonel commandeers a German family's home. The owner, Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgard) and his daughter, are also dealing with personal tragedy caused by the war, which in turn complicates their attitude to Lewis and Rachael.
The Aftermath is loaded with emotional entanglements as characters seek shelter from the war's impact by engaging in battles within themselves, among each other and across the divide between countries who were enemies and, in the aftermath of the war, still bear enmity towards the victor or the vanquished.
War rains death and destruction upon all those involved, whether by choice or innocent circumstance. But it is the human element that inflicts physical and emotional pain and suffering. All of this amounts to a volatile and emotionally charged melodramatic affair that, at times, becomes ponderous, but, nonetheless, shows the complications that arise as humans attempt to re-establish civility and repair damaged buildings and shattered hearts after a war.