• Clara Garnier was kidnapped when she was five and discovered 25 years later, alive, without any knowledge of her origins. (Supplied)
By
Anthony Morris

7 Nov 2019 - 12:34 PM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2019 - 12:37 PM

It’s not unusual for a detective to be haunted by a traumatic past. But French cop Aurore Garnier (Nadia Farès) is suffering more than most: when she was a child, her younger sister Clara was kidnapped right before her eyes. The criminals demanded a high ransom from her well-off family, but when it came time to do the swap the exchange turned into a bloodbath. Clara’s mother Isabelle was killed; Clara herself vanished without trace.

The crime sent shockwaves throughout the wealthy Côte d'Azur region of France. Twenty-five years later, those shockwaves are still being felt. Aurore never recovered; her father Jacques (Antoine Duléry) has gone on to make a new life for himself with another woman and now has a teenage daughter, Thelma (Eden Ducourant). If that sounds like a recipe for family trouble, it only gets worse.

This is one of Fare’s first major roles after a decade-long break from acting (she moved to California with her husband to raise a family). She returned to acting in style, appearing alongside Gerard Depardieu in Netflix’s first French production, Marseille.

She’s not the only big gun in the cast though: Antoine Duléry is a series regular on Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games (available now on SBS On Demand), Raphaël Lenglet, who plays her brother Frédéric, was recently seen in Paul Verhoeven’s controversial film Elle, and Manon Aze, who plays the grown-up Clara, started her career as the official (French) voice of Emma Watson in the Harry Potter films.

Fare does a great job of conveying the conflict at Aurore’s heart. She’s been tramuatised by her mother’s death and her sister’s disappearance, but she’s also got the strength to keep trying to make it right after so many years. Even as a cop, the scars of her past dominate her life – and it’s not like she needs the work, considering her family’s wealth. Frédéric manages their extensive hotel resort; her other brother Gabriel (Lannick Gautry) is a nightclub manager, though as the story begins it’s clear he’s not a particularly good one.

While her grandfather Paul (André Oumansky) is preparing to sell their resort, Aurore is investigating the death of a man who’d been living in the scrubland. As part of her investigation, she stumbles across a photo of a young woman who’s the spitting image of her missing sister. But what’s she been doing living in Italy all this time?

You don’t set a series in the French Riveria without taking advantage of the scenery, and there’s a lot of stunning locations on offer here. They’re not there just to look pretty though; there’s a constant theme running through this series of the darkness that hides beneath beauty, whether it’s the stunning locations or more than one member of the Garnier family. So while it’d be easy for this to become the story of one woman’s quest for her missing sister, it rapidly becomes clear that there’s a lot more going on here.

Finding Clara turns out to be the easy part. Initially she doesn’t even want to meet a father she doesn’t remember, while Aurore’s family are divided over whether she is really the one they’ve been searching for all these years. After all, is it a coincidence that she’s turned up just as the Garnier’s are about to make a major financial decision – one that seems to already be dividing the family?

Gabriel might be the bad boy of the family, but he clearly wouldn’t mind the money from the sale (especially as his nightclub is clearly struggling). If Clara turns out the truly be a member of the family, then she’ll get a say in what happens to the estate, which means winning her over rapidly becomes vital. But when the first gathering of the entire family comes under attack, it’s clear that someone has made some very deadly enemies.

Meanwhile, Aurore’s investigation into what happened to Clara is rapidly turning up mysteries of its own. Who was the man who raised Clara as his own daughter for all those years? Was he connected to the kidnapping? The more she digs into his identity, the more complicated his story becomes.

The only thing Aurore knows for sure is that there was more to the kidnapping than a simple ransom demand. And as it becomes increasingly obvious that there’s a mole inside the police force, the only person she can trust to find out the real truth about her sister is herself.

Watch Season 1 of The Red Shadows at SBS On Demand now.