Movie Review: ‘Resistance’

Review by James Lindorf

Jonathan Jakubowicz is Venezuela’s most celebrated filmmaker, he is also a Polish Jewish descendant, adding a personal connection to his latest project, “Resistance.” Before he was the world-famous mime Marcel Marceau, he was Marcel Mangel, an aspiring actor working at his family’s butcher shop in Strasbourg, France. Beginning in the later months of 1939, Jewish citizens in France started taking in children orphaned by the war in Poland. Initially, Marcel was pulled into the cause to use his acting ability to entertain the children. Still, after the fall of France in early 1940, Marcel is forced to join the French Resistance if he wants to save thousands of children. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) stars in this drama about Marcel and the group of unsung heroes who risked everything to give children a second shot at happiness. Joining Eisenberg is a talented ensemble cast that includes Ed Harris (Apollo 13), Edgar Ramirez (Gold), Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter series), Bella Ramsey (Judy) and Matthias Schweighöfer (The Command). IFC Films will be distributing the 121-minute film through VOD and On-Demand platforms starting March 27th, 2020.

“Resistance” has everything you could dream of when putting together a film. A well-respected writer and director in Jakubowicz who made the highest-grossing film ever at the Venezuelan box office. A well known and talented lead actor who isn’t a stranger to biopics, and a talented cast around them. A subject in Marcel that is well-known but whose full story has been lost to time. So why isn’t “Resistance” being released in late fall with a strong push for the Oscars? That isn’t an easy question to answer because there are no glaring errors.

Eisenberg gives perhaps his best performance and could win over people who thought he could only play smarmy or neurotic characters. The set design, costuming, sound design, and music all fit the movie’s setting. This is not a, why is the “A Knight’s Tale” soundtrack only classic rock, situation. The problem lies in the fact that unlike Marcel and his team getting kids to safety, Jakubowicz wasn’t able to take the film with all of its competing elements far enough. World War II may be the most explored subject in the history of cinema, and it has been worked into every genre multiple times. Baring just a few scenes “Resistance” never really delves into the horrors of WWII, keeping it from being drama on the level of something like “The Pianist.” A large portion of the film is about the paternal or big brother role Marcel has taken on with the children. However, frequent interruptions prevent it from being a rival to a movie like “Life Is Beautiful.”

Two storylines don’t serve the film and ultimately distract from the more important elements. The first, because it has more screen time, is Marcel’s relationship with his father. They care for each other, but their relationship is mostly antagonistic, as the fight over Marcel’s plan for his life. This quarrel is revisited time and time throughout the film, even when such frivolous disagreements should be abandoned. The second plot point that should have been removed or enhanced is the budding relationship between Eilenberg’s Marcel and Clémence Poésy’s Emma. Trying to win points with her is one of the main reasons Marcel first agreed to work with the orphans. There are furtive glances, some flirting, and even a kiss or two throughout the film, but their relationship never reaches its climax before the film’s conclusion.

Jakubowicz’s underlying message for “Resistance” is that to fight back against hate and oppression, you must not only chase after but live your dreams and passions despite any odds. The insistence on pulling this message to the forefront is what resulted in “Resistance” being a good movie with great moments and not being great from beginning to end.

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