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‘The Aftermath’: Brit officer, German maverick share home, things never get real

Alexander Skarsgård (from left), Jason Clarke and Keira Knightley in "The Aftermath." | Fox Searchlight

Of all the post-World War II German estates in the world, she had to walk into his.

Yep. Doesn’t have the same ring to it, right?

At times the soapy melodrama “The Aftermath” feels like an inside-out take on “Casablanca” — only this romantic triangle involves a dashing, independent-minded German (Alexander Skarsgard ) who refused to join the Nazi party, a noble British officer (Jason Clarke) who is more focused on his duties than his marriage, and the officer’s beautiful wife (Keira Knightley), who is finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the electricity whenever she’s alone with the aforementioned dashing German fellow.

It’s a contrived, borderline ludicrous premise — and though this is a well-made, occasionally involving film with solid performances from that first-rate cast, it’s impossible to take the leaps of faith the story asks of us.

“The Aftermath” is set a few months after the end of World War II, with British forces occupying the bomb-riddled city of Hamburg, doing their best to ensure a peaceful transition while also keeping a watchful eye out for pockets of Hitler loyalists plotting acts of terrorism.

The always solid Jason Clarke is the British Col. Lewis Morgan, a well-respected career military man who has been assigned to Hamburg, a move that sickens his wife Rachael (Keira Knightley), who has despised all Germans ever since her son was killed in a bombing of London.

Lewis and Rachael are to live in the mansion occupied by Stefan (Alexander Skarsgard), a widower whose wife was killed in the war, and Stefan’s teenage daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann), who hates the Allies as much as Rachael hates the Germans.

The plan calls for Stefan and Freda to move out—but having seen the bleak living conditions for displaced German civilians, the good-hearted Col. Morgan invites Stefan and his daughter to live upstairs, while he and Rachael will occupy the main house.

Stefan is grateful but can never fully hide his resentment at being shuffled off to the attic while Brits drink his wine and bang on the piano his beloved wife once played.

Rachael is incensed with her husband, and grows even more furious when he has to leave for Russia for a few days, leaving her alone with this, this, MAN. This devastatingly handsome, brilliant, brooding, broken man, who understands Rachael’s pain.

From the moment Rachael and Stefan look into each other’s eyes while we roll OUR eyes, “The Aftermath” is a runaway train of cornball cliches.

‘The Aftermath’

Fox Searchlight presents a film directed by James Kent and written by Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse and Rhidian Brook, based on Brook’s novel. Rated R (for sexual content/nudity, and violence including some disturbing images). Running time: 109 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.