BBC4’s recent French whodunit, The Disappearance (or Disparue in its native France), really hit hard emotionally with viewers. The 10-parter told the story of missing teen Leá Morel, the search for her body and killer, and the emotional fall-out experienced by her family. It’s now out to buy on DVD, so we managed to grab a quick chat with Maxime Taffanel, who played the conflicted brother and eldest child of the Morels, Thomas. The words that he spoke are after the jump.
We all know that French series The Disappearance was this year’s best pure whodunit so far, and that was reflected in its ratings on BBC4 – behind Trapped and The Young Montalbano, The Disappearance was the third most-watched drama on the channel this year, and number one with young adults. No mean feat that. I bloody loved it – it was full of interesting and likeable characters, solid structure, superb acting and a twisty-turny plot that kept us guessing until (almost) the very last. What’s more, the series is being released on DVD and it’s not long until it’s available to buy.
Finales to series that you have invested so much emotion in are tricky things, and entirely subjective – some won’t like the denouement; some will be entirely satisfied. And so it will be with The Disappearance. Some will not like the finish, some will. But for me, it tied up everything very neatly and provided an emotional conclusion to an emotional series.
NB: This reviews contains monster spoilers
As soon as teenager Léa Morel walked out of her parental home to attend a music festival on the eve of her birthday we knew that we were going to be plunged into a world of grief, guilt and frantic soul-searching (the clue was in the title of the show). Subsequently, the Morel family has been torn apart by the disappearance and now death of their daughter and as we approach the final two episodes we’re still none the wiser as to who killed Léa Morel.
We left The Disappearance after last week’s double bill with a body. A very dead body floating on the banks of the lake at Miribel park. It was just a case of whether it was the corpse of Léa Morel’s or another false alarm to give us – and her family – a fright. In quick-smart fashion, that question was answered and it wasn’t good news for the Morels. For us? It amped things up to a new level because now, instead of just potentially a kidnap, we were now embroiled in a murder case. The Disappearance had turned into a classic whodunit.
If the first two episodes of The Disappearance showed us anything, it was that the story of a missing child makes for compulsive, addictive viewing. What is it about missing children that affects us so much? With our innate desire to protect, losing a child on our watch is our greatest fear. We watch these emotional stories for strange, perverse and vicarious thrills. Missing children stories make us confront our starkest, most vivid nightmares in the full knowledge that it’s a controlled experience: there’s a sense that if there’s a resolution and it’s happening to somebody else it’s something we can just about handle. We still didn’t know whether the the child at the centre of The Disappeared – Léa Morel – was alive or dead, or what had happened to her or why so we were locked into this spine-stiffening story, eager to know where she was.
NB: There are big spoilers in this post
This French series – called Disparue in its native France – has attracted some big viewers in its home country, and some have even called it ‘the French Broadchurch’. It was inspired by Spanish series Desparecida, and has an-female production, writing and direction team, which gives it flavour and an interesting edge behind the camera. It only remained to be seen whether it matched the hype onscreen.