dir Amit Gupta
scr Amit Gupta, Owen Sheers
prd Amanda Faber, Richard Holmes
with Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha, Sharon Morgan, Michael Sheen, Iwan Rheon, Stanislav Ianevski, Alexander Doetsch, Anatole Taubman, Kimberley Nixon, Mossie Smith, Nia Gwynne, Tomos Eames
release UK 25.Nov.11
11/UK 1h32
Strong women: Riseborough and Morgan

sheen rheon morgan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Resistance This intriguing what-if story is set in an isolated Welsh valley after the failure of D-Day allows the Nazis to invade Britain. It's a great idea, and the filmmaking is sensitive and complex, although it's never as exciting as it should be.

After their men sneak off in the night to join the resistance, farm wives Sarah (Riseborough) and Maggie (Morgan) are left to do the work themselves. Soon a group of German soldiers arrives, led by Captain Albrecht (Wlaschiha), who takes an odd approach to his role as an occupying force. He decides to hide from the Gestapo in this valley, hopefully riding out the war while keeping his young officers (Ianevski, Doestch and Taubman) from battle. He also develops an uneasy friendship with Sarah.

There is plenty of scope for suspense, but director-cowriter Gupta never generates more than underlying tension. On the surface, everything seems nice, as everyone seems to get along, and both the Germans and the wives are complicit in hiding the truth from the officials. But dangers lurk everywhere, and it's strange that the filmmakers never really exploit them. They certainly don't develop the subplot about a resistance leader (Sheen) training the young local postman (Rheon) in how to deal with both the enemy and local collaborators.

This muted approach means that the performances are rather subdued and cagey, as everyone hides their true feelings. Certainly that stoic British sensibility shines through, as only Morgan is allowed to convey any wrenching emotion. The other actors never look much more than strained or emotionally stunned, although Riseborough and Wlaschiha are engaging figures at the story's centre. But it feels unbalanced that the Nazi officers are more generous and open-minded than the British rebels.

Watching a film set in this kind of parallel reality is intriguing and strangely provocative, as it forces us to rethink our prejudices. And the central underlying fact is that these women are much more resilient than the men who are determining their destinies. But the filmmakers take such an evasive, oblique approach to the story that, for a film in which life and death hang in the delicate balance, it never gets hugely involving, let alone thrilling.

cert pg themes, violence 10.Oct.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall