There is no shortage of World War II and Holocaust films. These movies have been made for decades, and there are so many stories that have come to shine on the big screen. One of those stories is that of Marcel Marceau, world-famous mime, and a member of the French Resistance who taught Jewish children skills they needed to survive.
Marcel (Jesse Eisenberg) is young, wants to act, and is about to have his life changed. His father, Charles (Karl Markovics), is a butcher and is not totally accepting of the fact that his son wants to go in a different direction. But, as war ramps up and Nazi Germany’s reach over Europe expands, Marcel is going to have to put acting aside for the greater good. He quickly finds himself responsible for a group of children and their safety. The rest, as they say, is history, but this is a history that far too few people know about, and it is to our benefit that this movie has come to be made.
Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Marcel Marceau is quite charming, and the respect he gives to the role, and the real-life person Marceau was, does not go unnoticed. Eisenberg’s lankiness, too, lends him some range as he goes through the motions of stage performance and miming, having to move his body an inordinate amount. We are so used to seeing Eisenberg as shy, awkward, and sometimes neurotic in many of his performances. While some of that does come through here, it is a different performance for him, and what he is doing sets itself apart from the other films he has been in.
With Eisenberg, Clémence Poésy (who you might remember from the Harry Potter franchise as Fleur Delacour) is Emma, and she gives a passionate performance. This character, in particular, deals with a great deal of trauma in the film. Poésy expertly communicates this trauma, and the effect it has.
There are some startling scenes throughout the movie, but there is a light atmosphere through much of it, especially when Jesse Eisenberg is interacting with the various children involved. The film, as a whole, is rather safe and sticks close to the fundamentals of what a movie is. There is no revelatory moment, nor is there a big surprise or twist in the end. Instead, this is a very respectful way to tell Marcel Marceau’s story, and it gives him the recognition he deserves as a hero during World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust.