Forty-five years ago, Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo imagined a Britain that had been defeated by Nazism in It Happened Here (1966) and the debuting Amit Gupta ventures into similar territory in his adaptation of Owen Sheers's acclaimed novel, Resistance, which is itself rooted in a literary tradition that dates back to Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, which is set in a world controlled by the victorious Axis Powers. However, notwithstanding some earnest performances, John Pardue's suitably sombre cinematography and an evocative soundscape composed by Malcolm Davie and Tony Gibson, this never quite captures the period feel or seizes the imagination. Thus, while it intrigues, it fails to engross and its content becomes increasingly confused, as its allegorical intent grows ever more strained.

The action opens with some farmers from the Olchon Valley in the Black Mountains sneaking away in the night and their womenfolk waking with the realisation that they have been abandoned to face the oncoming might of the German forces alone. A flashback shows a moustachioed Michael Sheen speaking earnestly to local youth Iwan Rheon about patriotism and the need for secrecy if resistance to the Wehrmacht is going to succeed. But no mention is made of the Auxiliary Units Special Duties Section that was central to Sheers's novel and, consequently, a faux mystery is established that will turn out to be little more than a Macguffin designed to facilitate the remainder of the story.

As the radio announces the capitulation of the Home Counties, Andrea Riseborough reassures herself that husband Tomos Eames has gone to be a hero and sets about rallying neighbours Sharon Morgan, Nia Gwynne and Mossie Smith and her teenage daughter Kimberley Nixon into keeping the home fires burning and the livestock fed. However, it's not long before a German unit arrives in the village and urbane captain Tom Wlaschiha explains that he, sergeant Anatole Taubman and troopers Stanislav Ianevski and Alexander Doetsch have been ordered to establish a communication post and mean them no harm.

The quartet has a darker purpose, however, although Wlaschiha withholds from his men that he has located the Mappa Mundi, the priceless Hereford Cathedral artefact that has been hidden in a border cave to prevent it being damaged in an air raid or plundered like so many other treasures across the continent. This also proves to be something of a red herring, however, as the main focus of the film shifts onto the burgeoning relationship between Riseborough and Wlaschiha, which intensifies as a bitter winter sets in and the victors and the vanquished are forced to co-operate in order to survive.

Although she keeps a journal confiding her thoughts to the absent Eames, Riseborough gives Wlaschiha some of her husband's clothes and even fantasises about sleeping with him. In return, he shows her his medieval secret, reveals that his wife was killed by the RAF and admits that he is anything but a committed fascist and hopes he can remain in this tranquil backwater until the conflict ends. But Wlaschiha has a ruthless side and he executes Sheen when he comes out of hiding and mistakes the ununiformed Germans for Welshmen.

The women, however, remain in the dark about what is going on and Morgan volunteers to take her prized horse to the annual Llanthony country show in the hope of gleaning some information. She overhears rumours and picks up some gossip from old friend Melanie Walters, but learns nothing tangible about the fate of the missing men. But, by allowing Doetsch to parade her horse around the ring with such evident pride, Morgan incurs the wrath of the watching Rheon, who shoots the beast on returning to the village and shatters the idyll by unleashing again the cruel reality of war.

With Wlaschiha aware that he will be punished for abnegating his duty, he tries to persuade Riseborough to run away with him. She appears to agree. But her sense of duty returns and, following a momentous act of sabotage, she slips into the misty hills.

Lacking the suspense and rousing climax of Alberto Cavalcanti's Went the Day Well? (1942) and the brooding psychological intensity of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Silence de la Mer (1949), this is a pleasingly poetic and technically accomplished first feature. The performances are admirable, with Riseborough maintaining an impassivity that makes her dalliance with sexual and treacherous temptation all the more disconcerting. But the characterisation is otherwise thin, with Wlaschiha essaying yet another decent screen Nazi and Sheen reduced to a stiff upper-lipped cameo that seems tacked on without adequate historical context.

The dialogue is also frequently affected, with the earnest speeches about unpalatable duty and an undying love of the land being particularly cumbersome. But Gupta make the most of an evidently limited budget - even though this precludes much actual combat - and isn't afraid to set a measured pace. Moreover, he achieves a physical insularity and emotional austerity that go some way to compensating for the scenario's rather sterile poetry.

In many ways, Resistance finds a curious companion piece in Terence Davies's adaptation of Terence Rattigan's 1952 chamber drama, The Deep Blue Sea, as it also centres on a wife awoken to new possibilities by a war hero. But, while Riseborough withstands Wlaschiha's enticement, Rachel Weisz proves powerless in the face of ex-RAF pilot Tom Hiddleston's boyish charm and willingly walks away from a life of luxury to surrender to her desire in the shabby cosiness of a Ladbroke Grove rooming house.

Written in response to the suicide of Rattigan's former lover, Kenneth Morgan, the play was filmed in 1955 for Alexander Korda's London Films by Russian-born director Anatole Litvak. Vivien Leigh played the straying spouse, while the triangle was completed by Kenneth More, as the free-spirited flyboy, and Emlyn Williams, as the high court judge whose earnest offer of affection, status and security counts for nothing beside the passion, mundanity and risk that the fling provides. The same year saw Edward Dmytryk bring to the screen Graham Greene's similarly themed 1951 novel, The End of the Affair, in which the unhappy couple were essayed by Deborak Kerr and Peter Cushing and the seductive interloper by Van Johnson. This feature was remade with mixed results by Neil Jordan in 1999 and Davies's revision (which coincides with Rattigan's centenary) is equally mottled with moments of inspiration and imprudence.

Essentially lifted from Litvak, the opening sequence is one of the more memorable, as Florian Hoffmeister glides on a crane from the bomb damage of a c.1950 London street to the window where Rachel Weisz is about to swallow a handful of pills and turn on the gas because lover Tom Hiddleston has failed to return in time from a golfing weekend to celebrate her birthday. It seems a trivial reason for suicide. But, in a blatant nod to David Lean's choice of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No2 for Brief Encounter (1945), Davies makes it seem almost operatic by using Samuel Barber's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14 to choreograph Weisz's measured preparations and the attendant flashbacks to dull nights at home with husband Simon Russell Beale and the first flirtation with her dashing beau at Sunningdale.

Indeed, this sense of dramatic intensity pervades the entire picture and recalls not only Litvak's Hollywood output, but also the so-called `woman's pictures' of Edmund Goulding, Irving Rapper and Douglas Sirk. Yet Davies also references his own recollections of postwar Liverpool, Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) and The Long Day Closes (1992), particularly in staging sing-songs in the local boozer, which suggest the continuation into the Austerity era of the wartime spirit that Weisz had sampled with Russell Beale on the Aldwych tube station during the Blitz, only with the subtle change that old standards like `Molly Malone' have now been replaced by pop songs like Jo Stafford's `You Belong to Me'.

Davies brilliantly uses this latter sequence to highlight the social and cultural chasm that exists between Weisz and Hiddleston, for, just as he was completely out of his depth at the art gallery (where she had patronisingly dismissed his feeble joke about `bric-a-Braque'), so she is the fish out of water in the pub, as she doesn't know the words to the latest hits - but does succumb to their tacky sentimentality and she melts into Hiddleston as they dance together and Stafford's rendition takes over on the soundtrack.

However, Davies is less successful in adding a new episode involving Russell Beale's disapproving mother, Barbara Jefford. With its scathing quips and arch civility, this smacks of poor pastiche, as does the scene in which Weisz first kisses Hiddleston in an empty pub after he calls her `old fruit, old darling'. The bellowed conversation in the street that service buddy Harry Hadden-Paton tries to referee after Hiddleston decides to leave Weisz after finding her suicide note is equally overdone. Yet, there is genuine poignancy in the inserted exchange between Weisz and landlady Ann Mitchell, who had saved her tenant from herself and now urges her to not to mistake an erotic crush with the real love she is showing her husband in helping him maintain his dignity as he lies on his deathbed.

Sadly, the story is less consistently compelling, especially as the pacing is so self-consciously sluggish. Morever, even though he is portraying a shallow cad, Hiddleston is disappointingly one-dimensional, while Weisz often struggles to convey the inner (almost masochistic) turmoil of a cultivated, if largely unsympathetic woman enslaved by carnal yearning. Even stage star Russell Beale occasionally seems a little mannered, as the decent cuckold prepared to forgive his wife's indiscretion as much out of enduring fondness than any consideration for his own career.

For all its minor shortcomings, however, this is obviously the work of a master film-maker. Davies's eye for detail is evident in James Merifield's production design and Ruth Myers's costumes, while his understanding of the camera is clear from Hoffmeister's exemplary use of key lights, golden tints and gliding travelling shots. His willingness to heighten emotion and refusal to pander to audience sensibility by modernising contemporary mores is also admirable. But it's Davies's undying faith in the enchantment of cinema that makes this compelling enough to rank alongside such Anthony Asquith's collaborations with Rattigan as The Winslow Boy (1948) and The Browning Version (1951) and Delbert Mann's Oscar-winning 1958 take on Separate Tables.

The sense of disenfranchisement is just as keenly established in Darragh Byrne's feature bow, Parked, which comes up to date to discuss how the taming of the Celtic Tiger has affected daily life in the Republic of Ireland. Owing much to the offbeat realism perfected by Leonard Abrahamson in Adam & Paul (2004) and Garage (2007), this may not entirely avoid a seemingly inevitable climactic lapse into sentimentality. But the story of misfits forging a transient solidarity in tough times has been thoughtfully scripted by Ciaran Creagh, while John Conroy's views of an often tempestuous Dublin Bay and the more serene city suburbs reinforces the notion of a storm that can best be survived collectively rather than in isolation.

Arriving home after many years of working in England, drifter Colm Meaney has little option but to live in his car until social services can sort out his application for welfare and accommodation. He washes in the nearby toilets, tries to make the vehicle homey with a small potted plant and keeps himself busy repairing timepieces. But he is glad of the company when twentysomething addict Colin Morgan settles into a spot across the beachside car park and they strike up an unlikely friendship.

Although he disapproves of drugs and is less than impressed when Morgan's pal Mark Butler threatens him with a knife, Meaney is taken by his optimism and resourcefulness and begins paying regular visits to the local swimming baths to do his ablutions. However, he has also developed a crush on Finnish widow Milka Ahlroth and not only joins her aquarobics class, but also attends services at the church where she plays piano for the choir. Encouraged by Morgan, Meaney even accepts an invitation to tea and promises to fix Ahlroth's broken clock. He also agrees to meals-on-wheels volunteer David Wilmot bringing his plight to the attention of the press in the hope that he and others in a similar situation can benefit from the publicity.

But not everything runs so smoothly. Dole officer Will O'Connell proves reluctant to process Meaney's claim, while drug dealer Michael McElhatton and his sidekick Andy Kellegher keep harassing Morgan over unpaid debts. Indeed, it's only a matter of time before MeElhatton resorts to violence and Meaney suddenly finds himself having to make his fresh start alone after Ahlroth makes a surprise announcement.

This odd-couple dramedy may suffer from a surfeit of contrivances and a shortage of insight into Ireland's juvenile drug problem, but it is splendidly played by Meaney and Morgan, whose easy banter contrasts nicely with Meaney's more reticent encounters with Ahlroth. Moreover, it succeeds in making its socio-economic points without undue tub-thumping and if Meaney's awkward exchange with Morgan's estranged father (Stuart Graham) is disappointingly trite, his parting from Ahlroth is poignant and apposite.

The same cannot be said, however, for Anurag Kashyap's That Girl in Yellow Boots, a Mumbai melodrama of the most lurid kind that was shot in 13 days by a maverick director who has developed a cult following in India for sensationalist pictures that sit somewhere outside both the Bollywood mainstream and the arthouse Parallel Cinema that strives to tackle socio-political issues with a degree of sensitivity and sincerity. Co-scripted by off-screen wife and leading lady Kalki Koechlin, this clearly seeks to demonstrate that Slumdog Millionaire (2008) put a gloss on the poverty endured by thousands in the teeming capital of Maharashtra. But it always feels more like a calculated exercise in exploitation than a realist exposé.

Ever since her photographer father left home after the suicide of her 15 year-old sister, Kalki Koechlin has longed to see him again. Consequently, the now 20 year-old has crossed the globe without her English mother's knowledge and taken a job in Pooja Swaroop's seedy massage parlour to follow up the few clues contained in a letter her father recently sent her from Mumbai. When not offering `happy endings' to regular clients like Naseeruddin Shah and Kumud Mishra, Koechlin is coping with worthless boyfriend Prashant Prakash's endless entreaties to sleep with him and his dangerous habit for getting into trouble with underworld thugs like Gulshan Devaiya, who breaks into her apartment and coerces her into paying Prakash's debts.

Having spent days sitting in government offices negotiating an extension to her visa, Koechlin hires suave private eye Shivkumar Subramaniam, who manages to track down a couple of likely suspects. He also offers her the chance to make a little extra cash by entertaining some of his wealthier contacts. But the ever-unreliable Prakash - who has been chained to a water bottle while he undergoes cold turkey - bursts into the restaurant and not only makes a fool of Koechlin, but also strikes her. Ultimately, stranger Divya Jagdale comes forward with the vital information that Koechlin needs to locate her father. But his identity comes as a ghastly shock, as does the sudden realisation of why her sister took her own life.

Anyone who has been paying even the scantest attention will have surmised these family secrets long before Kashyap gets round to revealing them in a denouement that is almost risibly soap operatic. But there are no surprises in this hackneyed and decidedly unsavoury saga, which has none of the combustible contentiousness of Black Friday (2004), Kashyap's account of the 1993 Mumbai bombings, or the dramatic inventiveness of Dev D (2009), his iconoclastic reworking of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's classic Bengali novel, Devdas. Having made such a promising debut in the latter, the lifeless performance of Kalki Koechlin is particularly galling. But the acting is pretty mediocre throughout this resounding misfire, while Rajeev Ravi's camerawork is as self-consciously restless as Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor's music is emotionally manipulative.

The content is hardly more refined in Wong Ching-po's Revenge: A Love Story, which emanates from the same 852 Films company that was responsible for Pang Ho-Cheung's Dream Home, which was seemingly released with the express purpose of putting the shock value back into the Category III pictures that had long been the guiltiest pleasure of Hong Kong cinema. However, while this grisly pseudo-horror contains killings that are likely to test even the strongest stomachs, it seems closer in look and feel to a South Korean crime thriller than anything seen previously in the special administrative region's `heroic bloodshed' or straight gore genres.

Although he appears to be a mild-mannered steamed bun salesman, Juno Mak is capable of the most pitiless slaughter. His preferred target are the pregnant wives of police officers and his chosen method involves the evisceration of the foetus from the dying mother. Yet even though he is quickly apprehended and subjected to the most brutal interrogation, Mak is freed for lack of evidence.

More crucial, however, is the failure of detective Chin Siu-Hou to coax guileless teenager Aoi Sola into testifying against her sole protector and the action flashes back to show how she was placed in a sanatorium following the death of her beloved grandmother and grew to depend upon Mok after he rescued her and took her for a ride on a carousel to help her deal with the shattering loss. Unfortunately, in trying to keep her safe by seeking sanctuary in the apartment of a prostitute friend, Mak exposes Sola to human depravity at its basest when she is raped by corrupt and quick-tempered cop Lau Wing and his colleagues and Mak is tossed into jail after being forced to watch the helpless Sola's humiliation.

While inside, however, Mak plots his revenge and the story comes back to the present, as he sets about his work with a dispassionate savagery that belies the tenderness of his feelings for the trusting Sola. Yet, even though Wong refuses to shy away from the grotesque nature of the slayings, this is never a gratuitous slasher that revels in spurting arteries and butchered body parts. Indeed, the emphasis is far more on the innocent of Mak and Sola's relationship and the perversity of a society that not only fails to protect them, but actively seeks to persecute them.

Pop star Mak (who devised the original story) and Japanese porn star Sola (who recently appeared in Takao Nakano's enjoyably trashy Big Tits Zombie) are surprisingly touching as the vicious vigilante with a heart of gold and the simple-minded innocent, while ex-Bruce Lee villain Lau Wing is typically hissable as their pitiless tormentor. But Wong's visual style is sometimes overly deliberate and the narrative lacks the lowering atmosphere and psychological depth of such South Korean thrillers as Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder (2003) and Mother (2009) and Na Hong-jin's The Chaser (2008) or the sheer unrelenting excess of Sion Sono shockers like Noriko's Dinner Table (2005) and Cold Fish (2010).

A true-life tale of everyday terror is related with laudable intimacy and restraint in David Weissman and Bill Weber's documentary We Were Here, in which survivors of the AIDS epidemic that decimated San Francisco's gay male population in the 1980s recall both their experiences and the lost loved ones who made them determined to continue doing what little they could to make life better for those less fortunate than themselves. Illustrating the deeply moving testimonies with often distressing archive footage and personal photographs and memorabilia, this may not be the best introduction to the social or medical history of HIV, but it offers a warmer, more human insight than such fact-focused titles as Robert Bilheimer's A Closer Walk (2003) and Peter Chappell and Catherine Peix Eyrolle's The Origins of AIDS (2004).

This is a study in sorrow, support and inspiration. But it opens in a careless time when Harvey Milk was the so-called `Mayor of Castro Street' and San Francisco's homosexual population was revelling in a hedonist lifestyle that seemed like an overdue reward for decades of suppression, guilt and prejudice. Yet, as Weissman and Weber point out, this heyday also witnessed the first signs of the pandemic that was going to transform an increasingly frightened and discriminated against minority and replace posturing with compassion and promiscuity with a camaraderie that even extended to the lesbian community that had not always stood shoulder to shoulder with its male equivalent.

In this regard, feminist nurse Eileen Glutzer is particularly instructive in her recollections of her time caring for the first victims of Kaposi's Sarcoma at San Francisco General and conducting the medical trials that eventually led to the cocktail of drugs that meant a diagnosis of HIV+ was no longer a death sentence. Paul Boneberg - a former hippie who became a key member of the Mobilization Against AIDS group that helped close down the city's bathhouses, promoted the Act Up and Silence = Death slogans, and campaigned against perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche's quarantine proposals - also speaks eloquently about the political aspect of the battle against bigotry and the programme to teach American gays and straights about safe sex.

Sculptor Daniel Goldstein also played his part in the education process, with his Visual Aid initiative helping ailing artists get hold of materials to share their experiences with the widest possible audience. He was also involved in the Under One Roof store that raised funds for research and other charitable activities through branded merchandise. But he also lost two lovers and discovered that he was himself HIV+. His immunologist boyfriend Steve died during the Suramin trials from which Goldstein had withdrawn after suffering an adverse reaction, while his partner Tim passed away in the car as he was being driven to hospital.

The dignified courage Goldstein displays in remembering these bereavements is truly humbling. But this is not all about traumas and tears. Black florist Guy Clark, who often donated flowers to those who couldn't afford to commemorate their loved ones, describes how an old acquaintance seemingly at death's door in a wheelchair was back cycling past his Castro kiosk after receiving breakthrough medication, while the genially gentle Ed Wolf jokes about how his reluctance to engage in anonymous trysts spared him infection and enabled him to become one of the Shanti volunteers who devoted themselves to ministering to the patients on the world's first specialist AIDS unit on SF General's famous Ward 5b.

Each member of this quintet speaks with clarity, affection and humility, as they recollect activism and activities that were often motivated as much by a sense of spontaneous desperation as concerted thought. Yet, somehow, even though 15,548 gay men died in San Francisco between 1994-97, the community emerged from the crisis stronger, wiser and more united. The disease has not gone away and a new generation needs to be reminded of its perils and the sacrifices made by those who went before and this admirable film makes a valuable contribution to a vital cause that is not only among the most pressing of our times, but one that also concerns the entire planet.

Finally, Swiss director Jarreth Merz captures the chaos, excitement and controversy of the 2008 campaign for the Ghanaian presidency in An African Election, which exploits unprecedented access to the candidates to reveal how close one of the continent's most stable democracies came to descending into violence after a disputed first poll necessitated a run-off between Nana Akufo-Addo of the right-leaning New Patriotic Party and John Atta Mills of the left-inclined National Democractic Congress.

This record of the hustings and the consequences of the poll provide a timely reminder of the preciousness of democracy for those in the developed world who take it for granted. But Merz and his co-directing brother Kevin don't always make tangible political distinctions between the parties and, thus, it isn't always clear precisely what's at stake. Commentators Kwesi Pratt and Baffour Agyeman-Duah, British High Commissioner Nicholas Westcott, outgoing president John Kufuor, politician Hannah Tetteh and activist Sekou Nkrumah (who is the son of Ghana's first independent leader, Kwame Nkrumah) sketch in the background to the contest, while Jerry Rawlings (who ruled as a dictator from 1979-92 and as the elected president from 1992-2000) passes some rather muddled observations on the contemporary scene while shuttling between endless rallies and meetings with the African Union delegation sent to monitor proceedings.

But neither Atta Mills nor Akufo-Addo is willing to offer much by way of policy or philosphy on camera. Thus, Merz and editor Samir Samperisi have to content themselves with fast-cutting between Topher Osborn's handheld images of cheering crowds, jostling entourages and speechifying candidates. But the effect is little different from that achieved by Robert Drew in Primary over half a century earlier, although neither contender has the charisma of John F. Kennedy and the Direct Cinema style that seemed so revolutionary in 1960 now feels overly familiar and rather flat and confusing without any accompanying editorial insight.

Nevertheless, the sight of voters trekking for miles and queuing for hours is deeply humbling and the agonising wait for the outcome of the count is slickly presented. But the most memorable sequences involve party agents Rojo Mettle (NDC) and Kwabena Agyepong (NPP), whose playful banter in the so-called Strong Room where the results from the 21,000 polling stations are collated gives way to furious accusations of ballot rigging after irregularities in the distant Tain constituency in the Brong-Ahafo region necessitates a re-vote on 2 January 2009 after days of nationwide unrest.

Ultimately, chief electoral commissioner Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan awards victory to Atta Mills and Rawlings confides his relief that not only has his candidate triumphed, but that Ghana has also continued to provide a good example for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa to follow. Yet most viewers will be left with the impression that shenanigans played as big a part as suffrage in the final verdict and few will feel much wiser about the state of the nation or its political system. Merz admirably maintains a balance between the parties and makes fine use of Patrick Kirsta and Ghanaba's jazzy score to impart a sense of gathering momentum. But too many dignitaries are identified by captions without their significance being explained, while the voice of the common people is too often drowned out by the empty rhetoric of politicos who seem more interested in securing power than wielding it.