Set in a the Welsh Valley in 1944-45, Resistance takes place in an alternate history where D-Day has failed and the German Army has successfully counter attacked and invaded the United Kingdom. Sarah (Riseborough) wakes up one morning to find her husband has disappeared. In fact, almost all the able-bodied menfolk of the valley have disappeared into the night without informing their loved ones, presumably to join a resistance movement (although this is never entirely clear).
As a squad of German Wehrmacht soldiers move into and occupy the valley, Sarah and other abandoned farmer’s wives initially offer passive resistance, citing a civilians duty not to assist an invading army in any way. Albrecht, the German squad’s commander, does not report the missing men, knowing that this would involve the Gestapo. As the winter closes in, both the women and the German soldiers come closer together, the soldiers helping with farm chores. What no one knows is that Albrecht is on a mission to find a historical artefact for German high command, in fact he finds it quickly hidden in a remote cave. Weary of war, he does not report this either, preferring to give his men respite in the rural community. However very early in the film it is revealed that there is a resistance member (Rheon, from Channel 4‘s Misfits) making reports on German activities in the valley.
This sounds like the makings of a provocative what-if thriller, like Len Deigton’s novel SS-GB or Alberto Cavalcanti’s classic 1942 propaganda film Went the Day Well? However in the hands of director Gupta and co-writer Shears (the film is based on his novel) the film is much more of a mood piece, and does not really attempt to introduce any thriller element, or even much in the way of suspense into the story. Clearly made on a low budget benefitting from remote locations, this is a low key attempt to view the effects of armed occupation in close up.
Unfortunately the film is completely undone by it’s relentless use of the very worst cliche’s of art house filmmaking. Dialogue is sparse, with long pauses before, after and during each exchange. Actors stare moodily into the distance as inclement weather closes in. There is a preponderance of long static takes. In all honesty 90% of the film appears to consist of shots of Riseborough starting out of the frame at something non-specific, whilst looking to be in mild discomfort. Perhaps the stilted delivery, and inscrutable performances are an expression of a nation in shock at being invaded? The effect is to raise memories of the very worst British art films of the 80s, films that seemed to view plot, pace and audience engagement with complete contempt.
Resistance takes a provocative premise and wrings any life out of it, it is sadly among the most boring films of the year. It should also be mentioned that while Sheen is prominent in both the cast list and the publicity, his part is miniscule.