Review: 'Resistance'

With all due respect to the many Americans using #Resistance as a way of discussing their efforts to push back against a Trump presidency, their resistance is still a pale shadow of what it's like to risk your life or the lives of your family in order to stand up to evil.

With 60-plus years of World War II films and television shows to look back on, it's easy to think of the French Resistance as a bunch of cliches. The shopkeeper secretly passing messages to couriers, the seemingly innocent French farmers hiding British aviators from the Germans.

But in WWII - as in many wars - the real resistance was fueled by people who had the most to lose. Men and women who could have easily stayed on the sidelines, but instead chose to resist knowing the cost. These people weren't facing some angry tweets or social shaming.

They did what needed to be done without reservation, realizing that even if they survived, most of what they sacrificed would be lost to the dusty pages of history.

"Resistance" is a 2014 French mini-series which has just been added to the streaming service Walter Presents. It's story is loosely based on the story of the Group of the Museum of Man, a group of French intellectuals, teachers and students who resisted the German occupation of France. Their resistance took form in everything from posters and a secretive newspaper named "Resistance" to more aggressive measures such as sabotage. One of the striking things about their story is that some of the members were only in their early teens, but were still willing to risk their lives to fight the occupation.

The cast will likely be unknown to American audiences, other than young Pauline Berlet (Lili Franchet), who also played a young Edith Piaf in the Oscar-winning film "La Vie En Rose." But the mysteriousness of the cast actually works to the film's benefit, making it easier to see these characters as they were in real life: unknown people who were thrust into greatness by their bravery.

The six episodes of "Resistance" manage to nicely capture the feel of participating in such dangerous behavior. There are moments of intense excitement, being pursued by police and risking your future simply to drop some flowers at the site of a forbidden monument. But much of the time is spent on the mundane tasks that come with resisting any great evil. Days of planning, hour upon hour of putting together the many small pieces that can hopefully be cobbled together into direct action.

"Resistance" also focuses on an underappreciated aspect of any protest movement: the importance of trust. When your life is in danger, when you worry about the consequences your actions might have on your friends and family, knowing who to trust is perhaps the most important question of the day. It really does center around the concept of honor. 

Everyone hopes that in the face of evil they can muster the inner strength to stand tall and be true to themselves and their cause. But you never quite know how you'll react until it happens and those unexpected moments of weakness and heroism are what you'll ultimately remember most about this miniseries.

In a time when the phrase "life or death" is thrown around casually to cover almost any difficult moral or political challenge, "Resistance" is a good reminder that as bad as things are in the U.S. in 2017, we are nowhere near the level of a real-world war status. But the miniseries is also a solid reminder that the best of us can rise up to meet any danger. Here's hoping that none of us will be tested in this way anytime soon.