What if D-Day failed and the Nazis instead invaded England? That’s the rather familiar premise of Resistance, a rather ponderous film set in a rural Welsh valley in 1944. Though the film treats the subject with dignity and respect (there are no explosions or cheesy jingoistic speeches here), it never really holds the attention that it should do.
Following the successful invasion of England, a platoon of German soldiers is despatched to a village in Wales in order to secure the valley. The men of the village are curiously absent, having taking to the hills leaving the women behind on their own.
The German soldiers led by the empathetic but still by-the-book Albrecht (Tom Wlashchiha) are friendly and try to reach out to the womenfolk who are left. They’re initially met with mute hostility but as winter closes in, they find their offers of help gradually accepted, as extra hands are needed to manage the mountain farms.
Some of the locals go so far as to openly collaborate with the German soldiers figuring that they might as well accept their fate despite the nationwide prohibition on lending aid. The Germans also come to enjoy the solitude that the Welsh mountains provide and value it as a place to sit out the rest of the English occupation, even going so far as to deliberately delay their mission so that they have reason to stay.
It’s a slow film, one which tends towards quiet introspection and atmospheric contemplation rather than action spectacular. Consequently its focus is on the dynamics of its characters rather than acts of derring do. That would be all well and good if those characters were particularly engaging but its restraint is also its downfall.
Most of the cast are so straitjacketed that they never really develop – only Andrea Riseborough’s Sarah (beautiful ghost-white skin) and kindly platoon leader (Wlashchiha) are given any room to breathe and it’s only Sharon Morgan as old hand Maggie who’s really let off the emotional leash.
Elsewhere, a subplot involving Michael Sheen teaching a local postman (Misfits’ Iwan Rheon) to spy on and to fight the occupying forces as well as any suspected collaborators is left completely undeveloped and neglected.
Alternative history of this type can be done well (Went The Day Well? and The Eagle Has Landed both have very similar plots) and the premise is an interesting one which raises a poignant questions – when is cooperation collaboration? And what values would you sacrifice for survival?
It’s just a shame that director Amit Gupta has taken such a laconic backseat to the story that it fails to capitalise on the social tensions simmering not only between the German soldiers and the locals but also among the locals themselves. It’s an intriguing set up which unfortunately fails to engage.