The Aftermath

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The AftermathThe bones of The Aftermath are solid. The setting – Hamburg in ashes after World War II – is haunting. The interpretation by the cast is first rate. Why then does the film become a little ordinary during its last third?

The story opens with Rachel (Keira Knightly) riding in silence on a train to Hamburg to reunite with her husband, Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke). Director James Kent does a fine job of showing us the ruins of that city that followed the surgical strike by the British that killed thousands at war’s end. The city was reduced to ashes. Rachel and Lewis, the British couple, have been assigned to occupy a country mansion now lived in by German architect Stefan (Alexander Skarsgard). With a kind gesture, Lewis invites Stefan to stay on.

The wartime death of the son of Rachel and Lewis is the unexplained cloud that hangs over the couple. While their chemistry has the understandable feel of relief at war’s end, it is laced with restraint that is rooted in the circumstances around the loss of their young son.

The movie unfolds in the hands of the three fine actors who give us the story with their silences far more than with their words. When Colonel Lewis leaves for six days of an occupation crisis, Rachel and Stefan inevitably overcome their British/German resentment and become lovers. Director James Kent has designed a love scene bathed in a fluid mix of light and color as we wonder what will happen when the Colonel comes home to this love affair.

It is then that Director Kent begins to fall into the more conventional ups and downs of lovers/wives/husbands. You will spot the ordinary stuff. Even then though, we are still interested in this quiet film because neither the acting nor the dialogue ever becomes excessive. It’s just the script.

How can anyone resist the long opening train ride while we try to figure out who Rachel is and why she’s there? Equally affecting is the sight of conqueror and enemy, again in silence, learning to live in the same house.

For its first two thirds, the movie conveys the deep feelings of these quiet, damaged people in a way that draws us deeply into the ruins of war. The scars are delivered through silence. Is it worth going? For me, yes. Though ordinary slip ups do undercut the strength at times, actors conveying emotions with expressions rather than words is affecting. Silence is their language in a terrible historical time.

Keira Knightly does all that with few words and big effect. In the same understated but dramatic tone, both Alexander Skarsgard and Jason Clarke deliver strength and kindness with few words. The chemistry among the three is sophisticated. When the director turns to the ordinary in the last third, let’s look at it as excusable error in a story compelling for the silences laced with emotion delivered by three good actors.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : The Aftermath
Word Count : 497
Running Time: 1:49
Rating : R
Date : April 7, 2019

Gloria Bell

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Gloria Bell

Gloria Bell is a provocative movie that is likely to stir women and bore men. For women it is a trigger to think about what it felt like after their last child had grown and left home – a time of new freedom that can carry great sadness for those who had been completely absorbed by roles they loved. As they stand newly free in their 50s, they face the challenge of figuring out their next life. They are standing in a chasm that is free of duty and empty of the love they had known.

Julianne Moore creates Gloria, a woman who has been single for fifteen years while raising her children to their adulthood. Now one is getting married and moving abroad and another is married with a spouse who is taking a break from him. As they leave, Gloria’s sadness is deep.

She tries repeatedly, and often wistfully, to help them but they don’t need help. One is marrying and moving to Spain with her new husband, one is raising his children while his wife is taking a respite from motherhood. She loves to dance and does it in a local bar, loves to sing and does it in her car but she is emotionally alone at too young an age. How can she, along with millions of mothers in that tough decade, fill the chasm?

She goes regularly to a familiar nightclub where she dances alone and is at peace. When Arnold (John Turturro) joins her at the bar, Gloria tells herself to like him, that he will fill the hole in her life. She does everything she can to love him, but the emptiness remains. A male view of this movie may well be that her sadness stems from the absence of a man. Not so. She is eaten by the vacuum left inside after spending two decades raising the children she loved.

Julianne Moore addresses all this by delivering the depth of those newly hollow years. Her Gloria wasn’t celebrating new freedom. She was looking for something deeper than that. She tries this and that – men, dancing, driving, exercise classes, friends, but nothing replaces the loss of what she had loved so much. She sings songs to her car radio. Where is that elevation she used to feel?

As a lover to Arnold, she still loves to dance and make love but her core never catches fire for the man himself. Each of them tries hard to make a second union work as they stumble over all the baggage each has brought.

Julianne Moore conveys all of this so convincingly that the movie may well help mothers who have the misfortune of being in their ‘50s before knowing all the good that can lie ahead. They can use the wisdom of their new age to design their new freedom – with men, with women, with career, with friends. Suddenly she sees that.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Gloria Bell
Word Count : 496
Running Time : 1:42
Rating : R
Date : 31 March 2019