This is my review of The Disappearance [DVD].
The Morels seem like an ideal family: handsome father Julien Morel runs a Lyon restaurant with his widowed brother and good-looking son, his athletic wife combines a career with caring for the sparky eight-year-old Zoé, and is on good terms with her irresistibly beautiful elder daughter Léa, about to celebrate her seventeenth birthday. All this proves too good to be true, when following Léa’s disappearance after a festival, police investigations combined with Julien’s personal sleuthing reveal that her life was in fact a web of deceit and guilty secrets. Yet, she is not alone in this since, as Detective Molina is driven to exclaim in despair, is anyone in her family telling the truth?
Our interest is held through eight suspenseful episodes, admittedly involving what may be an excessive number of false trails and red herrings. What sets this series apart is its strength as an entertaining psychological drama, with the detailed portrayal of a family in meltdown under the pressure of fear, mistrust, grief and forgiveness – of knowing when to tell the truth rather than lie to protect others, and dealing with the consequences of past actions. The dynamics of the police team is also well-covered, centred on the driven, outwardly brusque but in fact compassionate Molina, who with a vulnerable fifteen-year-old daughter of his own, cannot help identifying with Julien despite his often damaging interference born of desperation.
The drama is gilded with alluring vistas of the sun-drenched, golden classical houses lining the river embankments at Lyon, intriguing shots of steep stone steps leading down to the water, and the leafy shores of the lake in the Tête-d’Or Park where the daytime beauty may mask more sinister nocturnal events.
After so much sustained tension and engagement with the shifting emotions of the main characters, perhaps the denouement inevitably leaves a sense of anticlimax. Although poignant rather than the all-too-often implausibly violent resolution, it was marred for me by a couple of ploys, one overused and the other unconvincing, which were avoidable.
Based, I believe, on a Spanish drama, “Disappeared” reminds me of a series of “The Killing” which explores in depth a couple’s response to the death of a child. If the producers are trying to imitate the success of Scandi-noir, they have done a good job.