Starring: James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor
The topic – the sudden disappearance of a child – might be familiar, but this new six-parter from the BBC impresses for its ambition and complexity. The distraught parents are Tony (James Nesbitt) and Emily (Frances O’Connor), a British couple on holiday in France when their son is taken. The series juggles two time-frames: the original investigation, which shows how the case, and the couple’s marriage, goes sour; and eight years later, when Tony, now a drunken, obsessive wreck, unearths a lead which breathes new life into the search.
The first episodes seem a little overstocked with unsympathetic characters – a loathesomely unscrupulous journalist, Jason Flemyng’s useless and creepy British police liaison, who digs up dirt on Tony and winds up bedding Emily. But there is a strong middle section which develops in interesting ways and fleshes out some engaging sympathetic characters, such as Victor, a paedophile tormented by his guilty conscience and Rini, a Romanian immigrant, drug fiend and police informant who finds a measure of redemption through the case. Both time-frames remain gripping, dovetailing together as neatly and unexpectedly as one would hope.
With the likes of Anastasia Hille, Diana Quick and Said Taghmaoui (Three Kings) taking on supporting roles, The Missing has no shortage of acting talent, and it’s dominated by a trio of outstanding performances. Well-loved French star Tcheky Karyo puts in a warmly twinkling turn as a bee-keeping police inspector who comes out of retirement to help Tony. Ken Stott is powerfully unsettling as wealthy businessman who takes an interest in the case – but is his behaviour as altruistic as it seems? And best of all is James Nesbitt in what has to be one of the best roles of his career – a broken, forlorn-seeming figure harbouring a capacity for explosive violence. All of which makes The Missing pretty unmissable viewing.