A teenage girl goes missing on midsummer night, after a festival. As it becomes obvious that she’s not coming home, and the police investigation moves from initial disinterest to a potential murder hunt, so it’s revealed that Lea was a young woman with many secrets. And she’s not the only one: just about everyone in her family and among her friends has something to hide. And they all tell lies…
This gripping eight-hour French TV drama uses a similar dramatic device as was seen in the first season of The Killing, and uses it to massive effect. Every episode constructs more of Lea’s background and her activities on the night she disappeared – throwing up a credible new suspect each time, and laying the clues for the eventual conclusion. Along the way, the family is shredded by their loss, fear, suspicion and blame – Disparue isn’t simply a roman policier par excellence, it’s also a domestic drama of gut-wrenching intensity. Lea’s parents in turn crumble under the psychological pressure; her elder brother and cousin grapple with their grief, and almost everyone knows a piece of the puzzle which they haven’t revealed to the investigating officer, Molina.
The performances are superb, as is the plotting, and the use of misdirection and revelation to ratchet up the tension as the series progresses. As each of the characters comes under scrutiny so it’s possible to pulls the threads of the mystery into a coherent picture. Best of all, these characters don’t feel like a list of suspects in an Agatha Christie plot – Col Mustard did not do it in the library with a candlestick – but instead as fully realised, genuine individuals. None more so than Molina, who has marital problems and a wayward teenage daughter of his own, and who investigates the case with methodical compassion.
The Disappearance is laudable in the way it avoids typical TV detective clichés, pushes at the boundaries of what is possible, and delivers edge of the seat entertainment. It explores in depth the unpleasant aspects of the human condition without exploiting them. The year’s best crime TV series, to date.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
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