Because of the subject matter — a 5-year-old boy is abducted from his English parents while on vacation in France and is still missing eight years later — it might be hard to choose to watch this eight-part drama. But it’s easy to recommend. It’s that well-written, directed and acted.
For sure, there are many painful moments as Tony (James Nesbitt) and Emily Hughes (Frances O’Connor) search for young Oliver, who vanishes in a crowded public space when Tony gets distracted by a World Cup game on TV. The story begins with Tony, played with admirable rage, frustration and obsession (a key theme) by Nesbitt, returning to the little French town because he has “found something.” What he found is enough to persuade Julien Baptiste, the retired French policeman who led the original investigation, to join Tony in resuming the search. Baptiste is played by Thecky Karyo with great empathy and fortitude. His calmness, wisdom and determination are crucial to keeping Tony on track to find out what really happened and, one hopes, to punish the guilty.
While Tony, bearing plenty of guilt himself, bulls and bullies forward, Emily is drawn back to the search reluctantly. She has attempted to make a new life — with a British police officer (played by Mark Walsh) who was involved in the original search, and who has a son a little older than Olly. “I can’t exist in a nightmare. I have to try and live,” she tells Tony. Her life is a shell of what it was, though, and her new “family” is far from complete.
In addition to the strong leads, memorable characters include a young woman (played by Josephine de la Baume) who helps the investigation at great danger to herself; a ruthless reporter (Arsher Ali) for whom the Hugheses’ misfortune was a career making story; and an English businessman (Ken Stott) living in France who offers help in 2006, but only to cover up his own misdeeds.
Five episodes in, I don’t know how the story ends. But I certainly care enough to watch and find out.