THIS story is meant to be a poignant tale about two souls who have lost someone close to them, and who end up finding solace in each other.
Sure it sounds cliche on paper, but the film (based on a 2013 book by Rhidian Brook) deals with loss in different ways, and is set in a time that not many of us are familiar with.
When Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives in Hamburg, Germany, after the end of WWII, she is excited by the prospect of seeing her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke) from whom she has been apart for a long time.
It is apparent that there is some awkwardness between the couple.
Despite the devastation around her, we find Rachael unsympathetic towards the defeated German civillians. On the other hand, Lewis, a colonel overseeing the rebuilding of the city, sees them as people in need of help.
When Lewis tells her they will be staying at the seized Laubert mansion alongside its original occupants – widower Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgard) and his daughter, Greta (Rosa Enskat) – Rachael is angry.
Her outright hostility, we learn, is due to her holding all Germans responsible for the death of her young son during a London air raid.
Rachael eventually warms up to Stefan when she finds out that his wife also died in an air strike.
And with Lewis away for long periods of time, a lonely Rachael and a very willing Stefan embark on an affair.
As this affair is going on, there are the sideplots of Stefan’s daughter befriending a young Nazi, and Lewis showing us that despite being a lousy husband, he shows much compassion for the local Germans.
What I like most about this movie is that it gives a glimpse into a side of the war that we don’t hear much about, and shows how even ordinary Germans were victims of the war.
Despite its melodramatic premise, the story ended in a very realistic and satisfying manner, even though things were not neatly tied up.
The story is interesting and there are some tender moments, such as Rachael playing the piano with Greta, and remembering playing the same tune with her young son.
However, it is Lewis who ends up becoming the emotional core of this story with Clarke’s wonderful portrayal of this character.