(1999)2.5Mike CummingsStrong character development, intelligent dialogue, and well-paced action mark this 1999 British drama about residents of a small French town who respond with courage and cowardice to a German takeover in 1940. In the middle of it all, Monsignor Augustin Renard hides an English soldier, scolds a Nazi sadist, and struggles to preserve justice, honor, and human life. Overall, the four-hour U.S. version of the made-for-TV film is a solid production that turns the Pas de Calais town of Saint Josse-des-Bois into a microcosm of occupied France. The film presents an assortment of character types exhibiting qualities ranging from brutality, disloyalty, and servility to altruism, heroism, and defiance. John Thaw portrays Renard, a Roman Catholic priest who comes in three shades: gray for the hair, black for the cassock, and red for the ire he displays when he demands respect from the steel-fisted Gestapo overlord. After establishing Renard as a man of principle, a man who bends but does not break, Thaw sustains the film with his stage presence and acting authority. Scriptwriter Stephen Churchett undergirds the main story with intriguing subplots: a pretty French girl falls in love with a German soldier, a Nazi sympathizer discovers Jewish blood in his wife's family tree, French workers building barges for the German invasion of England go on strike, Germans capture boys sabotaging an airfield. Supporting the film with distinguished performances are Cheryl Campbell as Madeleine Claveau, a onetime fiancée of Renard; Des McAleer as Yves Renard, the priest's outspoken brother; and Michael Attwell as Monsieur Dufosse, a businessman and Nazi bootlicker.
Created by Russell Lewis, the four-episode British miniseries Monsignor Renard was set in the French town of St-Josse-des-Bois during the Nazi occupation of the 1940s. The title character, played by John Thaw of Inspector Morse fame, initially tried to keep himself above politics. Ultimately, however, Monsignor Renard became intimately involved with the French Resistance movement, rallying his fellow townsmen against their Nazi "hosts." Monsignor Renard was presented by Carlton Television from March 27 to April 17, 2000.