Deborah Ross

A true story that never feels true: Resistance reviewed

If I had to mime a review of this film – about Marcel Marceau's heroic wartime rescue of Jewish orphans – I’d probably mime nodding off on the sofa

Jesse Eisenberg flounders as Marcel Marceau in Resistance. Image: IFC Films

Resistance stars Jesse Eisenberg and tells the true story of how mime artist Marcel Marceau helped orphaned Jewish children to safety in the second world war. I had no idea. I had only ever thought of Marceau as ‘Bip’, who will live on for ever in my nightmares. (God, mime.) But while the story is remarkable, the film is considerably less so, veering between overtelling and undertelling, wavering in tone and never properly coming to any kind of life. If I had to do this review in mime I’d probably be miming nodding off on the sofa but, then again, I’m pretty sure I did that for real.

Written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, the film opens in 1938, first in Munich, where we see a young Jewish girl, Elsbeth (Bella Ramsey), witnessing her parents being murdered by the Nazis. And then it’s a swerve in tone to Strasbourg in France where Marcel Mangel, as he was then, works in his father’s kosher butcher shop by day and performs Charlie Chaplin routines in a brothel by night. Isn’t he a bit old to be starting out on his stage career?, I thought.

If I had to do this review in mime I’d probably be miming nodding off on the sofa

I scurried to Wikipedia and now know that Marceau would, in fact, have been 15 at this time, so Eisenberg, at 36, is more than two decades out, which wouldn’t matter, except it does, especially when he appears in a scout uniform and gambols around in little shorts. It’s weird and creepy and will freak you out. (He has his eye on a pretty local lass, played by Clémence Poésy, who is even older. When they are later caught kissing in the street, a police officer threatens to tell her father, and I’m thinking: they’re both approaching 40!)

But back to the narrative, and the nearby castle where children like Elsbeth are holed up.

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