It’s 1944, World War Two is raging, and, in an isolated Welsh valley, farmer’s wife Sarah (Andrea Riseborough) wakes up to find her husband, and most of the men in the village, missing. The Nazis have landed and the men have taken to the hills to fight, leaving the women, and their farms, defenceless while the mysterious Mr Atkins (Michael Sheen) recruits teenager George (Iwan Rheon) into his underground army of saboteurs and resistance fighters.
As the women wait for their husbands to return and struggle to keep their farming community functioning, radio broadcasts keep them informed of the progress of the war, news of battles lost in London, Manchester and Birmingham. When the Germans, under Captain Albrecht (Tom Wlaschiha) finally arrive, it’s almost a relief for the women. Garrisoned for the winter in the valley, they’ve been tasked by the SS with finding a priceless artefact. But, haunted by their experiences, for Albrecht and his battle-weary men the valley is a harsh but idyllic escape from the war.
Despite facing open hostility, the soldiers slowly break down the women’s defences, ingratiating their way into the community, bonding with the women while George studies the invaders, watching, waiting. Finding themselves increasingly drawn together by their mutual loneliness, Sarah and Albrecht slowly enter into a tentative relationship but, when George’s actions result in tragedy, Sarah is driven to commit her own shocking act of resistance…
Beautifully, hypnotically shot and glacially slow, Resistance is a very Briitish slice of that science fiction staple, the alternate history. Echoing Philip K. Dick’s masterpiece The Man In The High Castle and Robert Harris’ Fatherland by positing a world where D-Day fails and the Nazis have occupied the UK, Resistance is a sombre, moody, minimalist piece concerned less with action movie clichés or even something so pedestrian as a dramatic arc than with creating a mood of numbed dread, focusing instead on character and emotion, the confusion, the loneliness and the weariness of its central characters. Nothing much happens in Resistance and what does happen is slower than treacle running uphill but there’s a cloying sense of impending doom throughout, a stifling, suffocating feeling of claustrophobia.
Boasting universally good performances from its ensemble cast, particularly Welsh character actress Sharon Morgan, the standouts are Iwon Rheon’s (E4’s Misfits) conflicted George as the young saboteur spying on his neighbours and an almost inscrutable turn from Andrea Riseborough as the strong, self-reliant yet lonely and vulnerable Sarah. Subtle and powerful, Riseborough’s stripped-to-the-bone performance proves yet again that she’s one of the more interesting young actresses at work in the UK today. While Michael Sheen’s resistance leader seems to have wandered in from a less thoughtful, more exciting (and probably more enjoyable) film, Tom Wlaschiha is also excellent as Albrecht, a fundamentally decent man trying to protect both his men and the women, all of whom are as scared, vulnerable and as lonely as each other.
Slow, measured and cerebral, Resistance ultimately is just too restrained to satisfy but it’s a thought-provoking study of war and it’s costs.
Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha, Sharon Morgan, Mossie Smith, Iwan Rheon, Kimberley Nixon, Michael Sheen