Entertainment » Television

The Returned - Season One

by Kevin Taft
Contributor
Wednesday Feb 26, 2014
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If you haven’t heard about the acclaimed French series "The Returned" then let this be the introduction that should make you sprint to the store to buy it.

Having aired on the Sundance Channel in October 2013, the series is based on a French film called "Les Revenants," aka "They Came Back" (the U.S. release title). The story revolves around a small French mountain town where a number of people show up at the houses of their loved ones -- only to discover that they’ve been dead for a number of years. Pretty much everyone is in shock and must figure out how to incorporate these people back into their lives, especially because, you know, they were buried and stuff.

This is not to confuse anyone with the soon-to-air NBC series "Resurrection," which has the same plot and is based on a book called "The Returned" (which actually has nothing to do with the French series or film. Phew! Confusing, I know.) While there are some uncomfortable similarities between the two series, I can whole-heartedly claim that "The Returned" is far better than its American counterpart.

The French series is a moody masterpiece that is both creepy and emotional. It takes its time to set up a number of distinctive characters that we are instantly drawn in by. There’s Camille (Yara Pilartz), the 15 year old girl who returns home only to find her twin sister (Jenna Thiam) is now four years older and unable to connect with her. Then there’s a bar owner (Jean-Francois Sivadier) whose brother Serge (Guillaume Gouix) is a serial killer -- also previously dead -- but who pops up only to start killing again. There’s also Simon (Pierre Perrier), the ex-fiancĂ© of Adele (Clotilde Hesme), who turns up ten years after his death wanting to begin where things left off. Not to mention there’s Victor (Swann Nombotin) -- an eight-year old boy whose haunted (and haunting) eyes penetrate the soul of a single woman named Julie (Celine Sallette), who takes him in even though she suspects something might be very wrong with him.

You see, none of these Returned remember anything about their deaths and are as in the dark about their preternatural return as everyone else is. Add to this a number of other mysteries like a dam whose water supply is inexplicably dwindling, the town’s power grid that keeps going out, and the fact that some of the returned are starting to get strange markings on their skin.

It is enthralling stuff, and one of those series that you binge watch because you must see what happens next. With a terrific score by alt-band Mogwai and stunning cinematography by Patrick Blossier, this is the series to watch. Trust me.

There are no special features on this disc, but the Blu-Ray edition comes with a Collector’s Booklet that features an introduction by producer Caroline Benjo, an interview with director Fabrice Gobert, and a critical essay by Scott Tobias of NPR.

"The Returned"
Blu-ray
$34.95
www.musicboxfilms.com

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to ’Star Wars’ and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg. He can be seen in the flesh on the weekly PBS movie review series "Just Seen It."

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