Nothing about “L’Accident,” Acorn TV’s six-part mystery thriller based on a novel by
is predictable as it winds its suspense-filled way to its wholly improbable, shocking and spectacularly satisfying ending. On that journey, speed is an ever-present force and a menacing image—cars blasting noisily along highways periodically flash on screen. It’s a scene, a noise, unsettling in its contrast to the setting, a small town in Brittany called Sainte Lune, a place surrounded by great natural beauty—a place whose citizens had once known a secure and peaceful life.
Monday, Acorn TV
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Adapted for French television by
from a story set in Connecticut, and directed by
the series unfolds during hard times. Businesses are failing where once entrepreneurs could pay their bills and produce work of quality. This is no longer the case in Sainte Lune, where formerly reliable construction companies are now using shoddy materials, and jobs are falling away.
All of which is meant to provide logic for a plot in which respectable citizens depart from the norms of law-abiding lives. Hard times that impelled decent people—sophisticated men and women and fatherly types everyone in town respected—to get themselves mired in the criminal behavior at the heart of this story, a fact revealed midway through the series.
The menace of spoilers looms oppressively large in a tale as suspenseful and as haunted by the unexpected as this one is. Still it’s safe to reveal that the central characters—chief among them Gabriel (Bruno Solo), a local contractor, and Solène (Charlotte Talpaert), a policewoman—discover a ring of townspeople taking part in an illegal enterprise, perpetrators whose identities are slowly, and frighteningly, revealed to them.
Gabriel has good reason to connect this criminality with the trauma just visited on his life and that of his young daughter, Luna (Rose Montron). The first episode of the series opens with the mysterious death of his beloved wife, Rebecca, found in her car, parked the wrong way on a busy highway. She had from all appearances been driving in a drunken stupor, and had caused a crash that also took the lives of other people.
Something is wrong with this story, Gabriel insists—his wife did not drink. Pursuing information, he finds a sympathetic ally in Solène—the female police heroine without whom, it seems, no European detective series is nowadays possible. Usually pregnant or about to be (such is the case with Solène), she is rarely presented as a beauty. There’s a distinct touch of the ungainly about this sort of heroine. But there’s no missing her warmth and understanding, or the independent-mindedness that invariably reveals her to be a top cop.
The version of this character represented in Solène is all that and more as she tries to help Gabriel, whose grief over his dead wife and anguish over the mystery of her death are unappeasable. One of the distinguishing features of this series, the element that elevates it to drama many notches above that of your ordinary breathtaking thriller, is the human dimension evident in each of its characters. Amid the terrors of crime, and deadly betrayal, there still remain matters like the claims of friendship and loyalty.
In addition to being stalked by agents of the criminal ring, Gabriel still has the problem of a business to run and a staff consisting of a handful of longtime employees. He’s not a demonstrative man—his face has been set in lines of stony grief since the death of his wife—but Mr. Solo gradually summons him to life. He radiates something akin to concern for his employees even as he rages at their slovenliness. One of them—he has no idea who—has used shoddy electrical wiring in work for Gabriel’s customers. Another has made off with the company checkbook. The checkbook theft makes no difference to Gabriel, prepared to forgive the employee in question, an old friend, whose character he thinks he knows. Among the film’s most persuasive scenes is a nearly wordless one between Gabriel and that employee—they know the strength of old ties.
But, as Gabriel discovers, friendship is no guarantee of anything, including the right to live. Everyone taking part in the criminal enterprise is in mortal fear of everyone else in the ring, including old friends.
It shows what happens when the French get hold of an American novel and turn it into one of their works—utterly smooth, dark, appetizing and grotesque in all the right places.