Everyone in this French thriller looks fabulous. The men are handsome and chisel-jawed; the women beautiful and flawless. Add in the stunning French/Italian coastline and climate and you get a show that’s very easy on the eye. But is it a case of style over substance?
If you want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now.
‘The Red Shadows’ (les Ombres Rouge) is part thriller and part family saga. Aurore (Nadia Farès) is a police officer by trade, but is also part of one of the most dysfunctional families you could ever imagine. The Garnier clan own a hotel, spa and golf-course on the Côte d’Azure. They’re extraordinarily wealthy, but have a cloud hanging over them. That cloud is the loss of Aurore’s sister and mother in a kidnapping incident some 25 years previously. For Aurore – who witnessed the incident – this has been the driving force in her adult life and the reason for her career choice. So when a male body is found buried in the hills and investigations lead to the discovery of some photographs, including an image of a grown woman who looks very much like an adult version of Aurore’s long-lost sister, she become obsessed with the case.
In episode one, much of the focus is on the Garniers, setting the scene for the five further episodes that follow. Aurore has two brothers – Gabriel (played by Lannick Gautry, recognisable to many Walter Presents fans as Clovis Bouvier from the Lake trilogy) is a bar owner who is in massive debt to some unpleasant characters; Frédéric (Raphaël Lenglet) runs the family business and drives around in a Jaguar sport car. Their father – for reasons that aren’t readily apparent – is estranged from the family, has remarried and has a teenage daughter from this relationship. Aurore’s grandparents – who are owners of the estate – have decided to sell up, meaning €40million of money will be released to the family. A decision that is welcomed by most – but not all – parties.
But that’s not all. Aurore’s husband is having an affair with the police chief (played by Héléna Soubeyrand); her younger half-sister is snorting cocaine in Gabriel’s bar; and given the clandestine phone calls, Frédéric is clearly being unfaithful too. There’s a lot going on!
The actual crime – the murder of the man who was found dead on the hill – is almost forgotten about as Aurore seeks to discover more about this mystery woman in the photographs. And when she finds her in a café across the border in Italy, that’s when the real fireworks start.
This is like a French Dallas at times, such is the familial intrigue. It is a thriller, but if you’re hoping for Spiral or something equally gritty, don’t bother. This is all about the eye-candy; whether it’s the cast or the location.
As I write this, it’s a grey and miserable winter’s day and the world is still in the grip of a pandemic. It’s a welcome relief to immerse oneself in the warmth of the south of France with such aesthetic beauty. If you fancy a bit of Gallic escapism – and who in the present climate could blame you – The Red Shadows could be just what the doctor ordered.
Walter Presents: ‘The Red Shadows’ launches on Channel 4 tonight at 11pm and is available via All 4 now.