Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units


'Resistance' Movie Review

By Tom Sykes (CART Founder)

14th November 2011 


Auxiliers about to be shot.

'Resistance' by Owen Sheers is a beautiful novel set in Nazi occupied Wales during WW2.

Sheers' detail really draws the reader into the isolation that the lead characters feel on realizing their loved ones have gone to ground. Many of the men in the valley are members of Churchill’s secret resistance force, the Auxiliary Units - and they have gone into hiding so that they can cause sabotage and destruction to the Nazis with a view to slowing down their advance.

The feature film of the same name has been co-written by Sheers and produced by Big Rich Films. First time features director, Amit Gupta, has delivered a good film overall. It leaves you feeling visually full and it is beautifully shot. The casting by Sam Jones is also excellent, with each character blending perfectly into the shot and film. The film was made on a very low budget and was shot in just 30 days, but there is no sense of that when watching it. It sadly lacks dialogue however and this was intentional, but the removal of the more important dialogue leaves the viewer with many un-answered questions about the plot.

It’s not made very clear why the small German patrol is in the valley and why they are never checked on by their superiors. Whilst the subtleties in the film really make it feel original and refreshing, it is, at times, at the cost of the plot.

In most of the scenes relating to the secret resistance force the film is also historically inaccurate, despite having expert advisers and resources available throughout filming. Members of the Auxiliary Units are seen walking up a hillside to their hideout with large white bags on their shoulders. This would never have happened and nor would they have been captured alive, as briefly shown at the beginning of the picture. The character of Tommy Atkins played by Michael Sheen was also not true to the character in the novel. He was an eccentric who wore fishing flies in his hat. Sheers mentions this numerous times in his book.

Another crucial scene which is in the novel but omitted from the film is where the three women discover secret training manuals which confirm their husbands are part of the secret Auxiliary Units. Removing this important scene deprives the women of the bond that they all shared and the knowledge that their husbands were off fighting for what they believed in. Surely a key part of the film?

Sadly the Auxiliary Units, which appear so brave in the book, have been diluted in the film to the point where it left people asking ‘what they were even doing in the film’, and ‘who were the men seen walking up a mountain?’.

The film feels more like a poem accompanied by beautiful pictures then a full historical feature film, people may struggle to apply a known genre as there are many themes in the piece.

It is well acted, directed, shot, lit, dressed, edited and scored but feels rather bitty in places with very short scenes in the first half of the film. It could leave the viewer with many questions which I don’t think was the intention of either Gupta or Sheers.

However, a great novel with a refreshingly different film adaptation.


(This review does not necessarily reflect the views of other CART members.)

See more about the the film here