Last Updated on May 18, 2020
It’s been a good year for fans of non-English dramas. With PBS Passport and the PBS Masterpiece Channel on Prime picking up the Walter’s Choice franchise, viewers have been #blessed with Italian thrillers, Scandi-noir… and the period series “Résistance,” the tale of French Resistance during the Second World War. The story is told through the eyes of 17 year old Lili Franchet, a fierce, aspirational female lead who encounters war before love, and joins the Resistance.
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Through the interconnecting destinies of its heroes, the based-on-true-events historical drama focuses on young people and their fight for freedom from German occupation. Here’s why you’ll want to watch.
Elegantly filmed and cleverly plotted, Résistance is a thrilling World War II era tale, filled with action, intrigue, romance and tragedy.
Creator, Dan Franck, and writer, Alain Goldman, created a fictional main character, Lili Franchet, as a conceit to tell the wide-ranging tale of France in the 1940s. Franchet is played by Belgian actress Pauline Burlet, who made her film debut as the 10 year old Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.
Through Franchet’s eyes, audiences experience the highs and lows of the Resistance, see how the French worked both for and against the Nazis, and witness the personal tragedies war brings to a people.
Franchet is everything you want in a character that is to serve as your avatar. Brave, quick thinking, almost anachronistically headstrong – but ultimately relatable. Franchet moves about the country to help wherever she is needed, working alongside and befriending actual figures of the French Resistance.
“Résistance” unfolds over six episodes through the narrow lens of the movement, looking at an oft-unconsidered landscape of the war. While there are Jewish characters throughout the series, the larger Jewish and minority experience of the war is kept in the background, with the creators instead choosing to focus on the work of the Resistance and the people therein.
The series fulfills the promise of its title well, giving viewers admirable portraits of many of the actual men and women who pushed back against the Nazi threat. Simple actions, like the printing of subversive newspapers, make way for more morally complicated ones, like the hurling of Molotov cocktails. Meanwhile, their opposition grows more fierce as well, long-term jail sentences turning to firing squads and eventually, condemnation to Hitler’s “final solution.”
This may initially sound like a bleak look at a very dark moment in the history of humanity. But “Résistance” is so much more than that – even as the Nazi threat and its violence on the screen grow in magnitude, so too do the moments of bravery, of patriotism, and of intrigue. Paying witness to the perseverance and triumphs of these historic characters is not just thrilling – it’s inspiring.
The series features many resonant moments of hope in a time of tragedy – a Jewish family visiting their son in prison, as he struggles to keep a positive face; a line of young men singing La Marseillaise as they face down a firing squad. “Résistance” doesn’t shy away from the emotional tolls of war, relating the many stories of families torn apart – parents or children taken from homes and off the street when their work with the Resistance was discovered.
The period drama delivers a stark realism not often seen on American television, and that makes for affecting and poignant viewing. However, this isn’t just a well-written, character driven drama.
Technically refined, “Résistance” features some absolutely gorgeous lighting work. Each scene is lit immaculately, soft, natural light coaxed into providing appropriate mood.
Another stand-out element of the series is the costuming and makeup that we see throughout – especially noticeable on Franchet. While the girl who starts the series is a young-looking innocent, over the course of the episodes we see her age, mature and develop gravitas – all through the exemplar hairstyling and delicate makeup put together by Odile Fourquin, Dorothée Soual and Florence Dupuis.
Overall, it’s a top series that delivers on multiple levels. If you are seeking a moving, beautiful, and rewarding tale of the French Resistance, and the Nazi Occupation of France, look no further.
Résistance is AVAILABLE to STREAM
Walter’s Choice is a collection of non-English television series’ that Walter Iuzzolino – the titular Walter – considers to be the best on the market today. You can read more about Iuzzolino and the series here. See the offerings of the franchise, here.
Andrea Wolanin is a content creator and host for WGBH by day and a writer/director of weird films by moonlight. While she discovered British Comedy as a guttersnipe at her mother’s knee, it wasn’t until her grandmother introduced her to “Father Brown” that she realized her love for the mysterious and dramatic side of things.
If you enjoyed this post, wander over to The Period Films List. Also see our review of Restless.