“Why do they hate us?” It’s ostensibly a simple question, but one which underpins the entirety of Resistance, the latest War-time story to depict the heroic efforts of those who sought to protect Jewish children from the horrors of Nazi Germany. Though multiple answers are offered, the impact of the question is clear. The harrowing opening scene shows a family ripped apart and is coupled by a portentous, string-driven score. An ominous sign of things to come.
But the nominal lead of this film is, perhaps incredibly, Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg). Before he found fame as a world-renowned mime, Marceau worked with the French Resistance to save thousands of orphans from the clutches of the Nazis. Before even this, he was a frustrated actor working in his father’s butchers.
Though dreaming of life as an actor, Marceau’s is pulled into service by best friend Emma (Charlotte Poésy). His habitual playfulness is severely tested, but the mime uses his talents to bring smiles to the faces of children who have already lost so much. This may sound twee, but Eisenberg sells it well, in turn allowing director Jonathan Jakubowicz to add light to a film which could otherwise live in the shade.
The happiness, however, was always bound to be fleeting. As the film begins, it is 1939, before war began and the horrors of the Holocaust had been fully realised. Marcel’s brother knows worse is to come and urges the children (and adults) to plan for the future. As the Nazis sweep through France, Marceau, the children and his friends are pursued relentlessly by the chilling, ruthless SS officer Klaus Barbie (played with real menace by Matthias Schweighöfer).
Jakubowicz’s film is essentially well meaning, though there are some weaker elements. Framing this as a reminiscence of General Patton (a cameo for Ed Harris) jars, even when played as a sincered a nod to the essential bravery of those who didn’t have guns, legions and armies to fight their battles.More so, there is no, one, standout performance for the film to rally around. It’s a well acted piece, but Eisenberg’s mime is too earnest, too one-notedly heroic in the end that it never quite captures the profound fear of the time. That said, the real-life story is an excellent one, and one which deserves to be told. The film may lack punch, but it does show a lot of heart .
Resistance is available to stream online from Friday 19th of June.