Gloria Meyers (Cécile Bois) has a seemingly perfect life. She’s a successful lawyer and a mother of three, working for the family business in the small French coastal town she calls home. After taking maternity leave, she’s keen to get back to work. But not like this: after heading into the office that morning as usual, her husband (and fellow lawyer) David (Michaël Cohen) goes missing. Now she has to race into court to replace him at a hearing for repentant drug dealer Stan (JoeyStarr). But it’s not until the court case is over and David is nowhere to be found that the real trouble begins.
Gloria is a story about a missing man, but it pulls you in from the start by keeping the focus firmly on those left behind. This French-language series is as much about how Gloria deals with losing her partner and realising he wasn’t who she thought he was as it is about the mystery of where David’s gone and why. Partly that’s thanks to the down-to-Earth performance from Bois as a woman dropped into a situation that’s deeper than she first suspects. And partly that’s because it seems David had a pretty good reason for wanting to vanish.
It doesn’t take Gloria long to discover that her perfect life was built on shaky foundations. David took over the family firm from his father Richard (Bernard Le Coq) and seemingly spent much of the time since then losing clients and secretly running up massive debts. On a personal level he was full of secrets too, both small (he’d taken up smoking again) and big (he was seeing a psychiatrist in secret). The more Gloria looks, the more she finds. Why exactly is there a fake ID in her house in the name of her dead teenage boyfriend?
This would usually be the point where the police step in. And they do: the problem is that the officer handling the case is Marianne Volton (Barbara Schulz), who’s carrying a very deep grudge against Gloria. In a nasty divorce, Gloria was the lawyer for Marianne’s ex-husband. Gloria won the case, the husband won custody of the kids, and Marianne’s life never really recovered (as shown by her cropped hairstyle, which had French social media abuzz with complaints about how unflattering her fringe was).
Now it’s her chance for revenge, and she’s not holding anything back. As far as she’s concerned, this is a mystery with only one suspect: Gloria Meyers. The twist is, Marianne is the kind of honest, committed, driven cop we’re used to cheering on in this kind of mystery. If it had been anyone else in town who’d gone missing, she’d be the hero of this story. But she just can’t see past her hatred. In her mind, everything about this case becomes twisted to get the result she wants – she needs – it to have.
The contrast between these two duelling women couldn’t be more stark. Gloria is a confident, powerful person (at least early on), someone who instinctively assumes right from the start that she’s got a handle on things. Marianne is broken, struggling to hold things together. She’s the kind of TV cop we’re familiar with, someone who starts out at rock bottom only to pull herself back up by committing to and solving a big case. Only here she’s committed herself to getting a much darker result. She’s also something of a loner, even as part of a police department.
Gloria has her family; she also has her best friend Chacha (Amelle Chahbi), who’s always ready to help out (and brings some all-important humour to the series). Her in-laws are hovering around, alternatively worried about their son and embarrassed about what he’s been up to. Even drug dealer Stan finds himself dragged into proceedings as an emergency baby-sitter while Gloria races around trying to track down leads. Which she has to do, obviously: the police are only interested in evidence that points directly to her.
The more Gloria investigates, the more she realises her life has been shattered beyond all repair, and staying at home hitting the wine with Chacha will only get her so far. David tangled her up in his secret life; with him gone the web he left behind is only going to get tighter. And the one person she should be able to turn to for help is committed to putting her behind bars for a crime she didn’t commit.
This is a mystery she has to solve on her own if she’s going to understand her past with David – and still have a future with her family.
Gloria is now streaming on SBS On Demand.
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