HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

TV Review: Sundance Channel Continues Excellent Year with ‘The Returned’

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – They have already made a statement in 2013 by broadcasting Jane Campion’s brilliant “Top of the Lake” and the riveting “Rectify” but Sundance Channel goes for the hat trick, starting tonight, as they debut the French supernatural hit “The Returned,” a brilliant twist on the undead genre that places the emphasis on mood, dread, and emotion instead of the unexpected. The subtitled program can get a bit melodramatic but it’s more often mesmerizing in its effort to capture a small town in which the past seems to have been erased. It’s like “Broadchurch” meets “The Walking Dead,” but even that doesn’t capture the unique tone and subtle accomplishments of this gem.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

“The Returned” opens with a bus crash. 38 students go over the edge of a mountain road. Four years later, one of them, a girl named Camille (Yara Pilartz), climbs out of the ravine and heads home as if nothing has happened. She hasn’t aged. She’s not hungry for brains or lumbering like a zombie. She’s just back. She comes home and complains about being left in the middle of nowhere but seems otherwise unaffected.

The Returned
The Returned
Photo credit: Music Box Films

Of course, her parents are stunned. Claire (the great Anne Consigny of “A Christmas Tale”) has dealt with her grief over the last four years and is rendered speechless by the arrival of her dead daughter in her kitchen. She greets her almost in stunned routine, getting her a towel for a bath, even as this mother’s breathing becomes heavier and she begins to shake. What is happening? And how will Camille’s father Jerome (Frederic Pierrot), who split from her mother in the emotional turmoil that followed his daughter’s death, respond to the arrival? Camille has a twin sister named Lena (Jenna Thiam) who is now four years older than her doppelganger. You can imagine how that reunion will go.

The Returned
The Returned
Photo credit: Music Box Films

Quickly, we discover that Claire is not alone. Simon (Pierre Perrier), who we will learn has been dead ten years, returns to his apartment, looking for his fiancée Adele (Clotilde Hesme), who presumes he is merely a ghost when they do meet up. A young boy who will be named Victor follows a woman home without much explanation. An elderly gentleman finds his wife, who died three decades ago, in his kitchen, and essentially responds with the assumption that the apocalypse is upon us. What else would it mean if our long-dead loved ones returned? Would it mean that WE had died or were about to? One hears stories of ghostly visions before the end all the time. Perhaps this is the end for an entire small French town.

“The Returned” is effective because it balances supernatural questions with tones that other showrunners don’t even consider. We’re in an era of action-driven television and “The Returned” is more interested in mood – creating an atmosphere of tension and dread that doesn’t let up. The returned characters take a behavioral turn in the second episode that’s fascinating. Without spoiling anything, they begin to lash out at the world around them, almost as if they know they don’t belong in it. Is it a purely emotional reaction or is something wrong with them? Why were they brought back? And what will it do to the living?

“The Returned” takes a very relatable “what if” scenario – we can all imagine the blend of shock, fear, and happiness that would occur if a deceased loved one rang the bell right now – but doesn’t use it purely as a “Twilight Zone”-esque twist, as would be the case with lesser writers (or, I worry, with the inevitable American remake of this one). There’s very little in this universe that’s more impactful than the death of a loved one. What if that was reversed? What emotional impact would it have in the other direction?

Don’t worry. “The Returned” isn’t all existential angst. There’s a serial killer who comes back with the undead. There’s character-based drama that sits beside the supernatural twists. And that’s what’s so effective about the show in the end. It’s about the people, dead and living, dealing with the unthinkable and not just the unthinkable itself.

“The Returned” debuts on The Sundance Channel on October 31, 2013 at 9pm CST and runs for eight weeks.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Hot stories on the Web


User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing

TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Happy Christmas

    CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.

  • reno 911 front.png

    CHICAGO – The oughts was the era of the workplace mock-doc comedy, with shows like “The Office” and “Reno 911!” born into a time where TV viewers were excited to see see fake realities about the crumminess of a job. While this series has been available in separate season collections previously, “Reno 911!” is now available in a complete series set, one that boasts a grand amount of special features content in spite of some lacking comedy in the actual show.

Advertisement


HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter

archive

HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions
referendum
tracker