The Disappearance (Disparue) is a French 8 part mini-series. If you’ve seen The Killing or Broadchurch or are familiar with the Spanish series Desaparecida, you’ll be familiar with the concept. Except this time you see it in French with a whole new cast and some excellent cinematography. Some of the plot details and all the nuance are completely French.
A teenage girl Léa Morel (Camille Razat) disappears on the night of her 17th birthday. She was at a concert. She never came home. She was with her cousin Chris Morel (Zoé Marchal) and was supposed to be under the watchful eye of her brother Thomas (Maxime Taffanel).
Her boyfriend Romain Jamond-Valette (Léo Legrand) was also there that night. None of the people who were there admit to seeing her leave.
Her parents Julien (Pierre-François Martin-Laval) and Flo (Alix Poisson) went to the police in the early morning. The police took a while to get going on a search, a few more hours had to pass. Eventually there was a huge police presence all over the city of Lyon searching for Léa.
The grumpy cop – he had to be a grump, if you’re familiar with the lineage of this series – was Bertrand Molina (François-Xavier Demaison). His second in command was Camille Guérin (Alice Pol).
The grumpy cop Bertrand had a bad relationship with his own teenage daughter Rose Molina (Myra Tyliann). In episode 4, Rose makes a big discovery in her father’s case.
The police were hampered in their search because everyone lied to them. All the family members had secrets except the mom and the little sister Zoé (Stella Trotonda). Her father kept secrets. Léa’s cousin kept secrets, her boyfriend kept secrets. Her uncle Jean Morel (Laurent Bateau) kept secrets. It delayed the search and meant the police spent time uncovering unrelated lies.
Julien and Jean Morel ran a restaurant together. Between their families and their lies, there were plenty of suspects. They had an employee named Nicolas (Johan Libéreau) who came under scrutiny from the police. Léa’s literature teacher Mathias Tellier (Stéphane Debac) did also. A racing instructor was a suspect for a while.
The parents Julien and Flo went looking for Léa, often getting in the way of what the police were doing. The more the police learned about that night and about Léa, the more secrets of Léa’s were discovered. Drugs, unexplained caches of money, a secret life driving race cars, a secret boyfriend. Julien and Flo also learned some secrets about their son Thomas that could land him in jail.
While the process the police go though to find out what happened is thoroughly examined, this series is really about the family. Pierre-François Martin-Laval and Alix Poisson are fantastic as the parents. They have a younger daughter to think about while trying to deal with grief and anger and pain.
The younger child starts acting out as the family shreds into pieces. The son Thomas is wracked with guilt because he was off doing something illegal when he should have been looking out for Léa. Flo’s sister Sophie (Muriel Combeau) is always around giving support, but she can’t mend the forces tearing the Morel family apart.
The suspects are many, the clues lead nowhere or to the wrong places. Twice the police think they have the right person, and twice they find out they are wrong. The real villain isn’t revealed until the 8th and final episode.
Even though I’ve seen both The Killing and Broadchurch, I enjoyed The Disappearance (Disparue). The story had some differences. The interpretation by different actors made for a different vibe. It’s a good mystery and a compelling story of a family under unbearable stress.
The Disappearance (Disparue) aired on the BBC, and has been picked up by Acorn TV. It was directed by Charlotte Brändström, with writing by Marie Deshaires and Catherine Touzet.