The Missing is raw, uncompromising and utterly human
With autumn setting in, and the cold pushing us closer into the warm embrace of our trusty TV screens, BBC1’s The Missing is just what the doctor ordered – a sadistic doctor with a penchant for emotional trauma.
While vacationing in France, Tony and Emily Hughes’ (James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor) happy family is torn apart by the sudden disap- pearance of their five-year-old son, Oliver. It’s difficult not to see parallels with the McCanns, the most reported on disappearance of recent years. Nonetheless, the series should be taken at face value, as a crime thriller with a brutally honest and accurate representation of humanity at its best and its worst.
Director Tom Shankland expertly handles two timelines to track the investigation into Oliver’s disappearance – the present day and 2006, the year of Oliver’s disappearance. The present day sees Tony, desperate and drunk, resuming his search in France after the discovery of a new piece of evidence. Meanwhile, flashbacks to the disappearance are fraught with suspense and dread, as the family’s world is turned upside down on the evening of World Cup celebrations in the French town of Chalon Du Bois. It may be somewhat slow to start with. However, as James Nesbitt’s face contorts with fear and panic, and the soundtrack rises to an excruciating screech as he realises Oliver is nowhere to be seen, you can’t help but feel the grief and pain.
The viewers are introduced to the French investigation team including Khalid Ziane, with secrets of his own, and Laurence Relaud an inexpe- rienced officer who Tony and Emily come to trust. Yet it is methodical Parisian detective, Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo), who leads the inves- tigation, which is to be the last of his brilliant career. In a Broadchurch manner, no stone is left untouched, no local left unquestioned. Like drop- ping a pebble in a lake the disappearance engulfs the lives of everyone involved in the investigation, following the ramifications from past to present for suspects and innocent locals alike.
With both past and present investigations under way the show takes on a more detective drama appearance. However, none of the human as- pect is lost, Nesbitt and O’Connor both give haunting performances, and depicting all the ways people attempt to deal with grief. Their portrayal of the difficulties of dealing with the publicity, the alien legal system and foreign language, as well as their own overwhelming grief and guilt, is raw and poignant without being overly sentimental.
The Missing is a roller coaster that will have you pulling out your notepad to keep track of all the clues, and reaching for the whisky to calm your nerves. With such an outstanding cast the show promises great things in the coming weeks. Yet, as a thriller it’s difficult not to expect the series to end with closure; something many families in similar circum- stances never attain.
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