How can the English be so anti-everything that is not English?
JAMES NESBITT — THE MISSING — 2014
Most of the action takes place in France but it concerns an English family, father and mother plus child, going on vacation to France. The child disappears in Châlons du Bois one evening when everyone is watching some football competition outdoors since we are in July and television screens can be moved. We are in 2006. It will take eight years for the truth to finally surface and justice — more or less — be satisfied with the official death declaration of the child in 2014. The child was at that time under the responsibility of the father who took him into a crowd of football supporters and let him go. Within minutes he had disappeared and the assumption was that he had been abducted by some human traffickers.
The series is then very surprising in the amateurish way of dealing with things. The disappearance of the child is classified as an unsolved case soon after the abduction and will only be revived in 2014 when some new elements appear.
But the film is in many ways a debunking — and yet not exactly unbiased — of all kinds of absurd preconceived ideas. Abducted you said, then it has to be by the Romanians who are more or less getting some kind of a living by trafficking in the region, and more generally in France. Two girls are drug-addicts, the daughter of the main French detective and the sister of one of the Romanian traffickers. When you add to this the wife of an architect who more or less encouraged his pedophilia for her own comfort, the wife of the hotel manager who tries to keep his alcoholism under control but does not put him on a leash, a real detox treatment, the film is definitely not very woman-friendly. The only positive woman among these few women is the Romanian who manages to detox herself with some help from the French detective and to get a job as an English teacher: a European benefit in a way since she must have had a Romanian diploma of some kind that was automatically accepted in France.
The mother on the other hand is seen as volatile. She is nearly, and she says so later on, relieved by the decision to stop the investigation. She is not really supportive and in spite of all she says that the child will always be present in her mind, she pushed him aside rather fast. Mourning can be quite different for many people. The result is that the film is dominated by some men, which is slightly sexist. The “juge d’instruction” (District Attorney) is a man, the father is hyper dominant, the main detective is a man. The Moroccan junior detective is a man. The main journalist, a Moroccan, is a man too. The architect who is a serial pedophile is a man. The local pedophile who will move to England to escape France after his stint in prison for possession of indecent and inappropriate pictures on his laptop is a man of course. To expand on this point, I should say pedophilia is depicted in the most repulsive way with the architect more or less supported by his wife and the local isolated one ending up hanging himself in England because he cannot get rid of his disease, as he called it, with some good old medical treatment that after a while make him vomit when he sees a boy and the boy’s eyes connect with him. And of course he writes a note to his mother. Those are clichés and they are NOT SO TRUE.
But the main actor is also very good and he impersonates a father who is unstable, resolute to the point of following his first impression, violent every single time he meets with something that blocks his way. He is not at all reluctant at killing someone if he so decides he has to. His first impression has to be the good one and if he thinks this or that man, always men, is the culprit he will by accident kill him or try to kill him. He can hardly be kept under control by the main detective in 2006, and later on retired detective entrusted with the reopening of the case in 2014. What is surprising is that the police seems to be good as for their field work, though they will not get an essential piece of evidence because the Moroccan junior detective will leak it to the Moroccan journalist who is blackmailing him. That piece of evidence will only be recuperated in 2014 and after the Moroccan junior detective has been killed in prison just before he could and would tell the retired detective, his own son who accepted to see his father, and the parents of the abducted child. Rats are not liked in prison (and of course the wardens just plainly closed their eyes. One more cliché that is slightly worn out.
The French police is shown in the most unfavorable way and through the eyes of an Englishman who is able to commit the worst crimes without any real evidence, just from the knack of the moment, from the very start this father has an anti-pedophile stance and conviction that is nearly nothing but fundamentalist bigotry. The series does not exploit this element at the psychological level concerning the father himself. Such a level of hostility could and should make people think he is at least a closet pedophile with his own son and wants to keep him for himself. Any extreme position like this one reveals the person concerned is suffering from what he or she exposes. We have known that since Shakespeare: “The lady protests too much.” And too much this father does protest against pedophiles. And of course his son’s abduction had nothing to do with pedophiles.
Still about the French police, it is obviously shown as incompetent, unable to widen the palette of solutions under the violent, vehement attitude of the father they are not able to keep in his place. He should have been kept under constant police protection that would have also been police surveillance because in such cases one hypothesis is that the father who was responsible for the child at the time and was the last person to have seen him alive without any alibi might be the culprit and should be treated as a suspect if not number one suspect. This hypothesis is only hinted at once a long way after the beginning of the story with the parallel with another case in the same place in 2009 in which the boy this time is abducted by his own father. They jump too fast on Romanians and slavery of some kind. They jump too fast too on pedophiles (under the pressure of the father) instead of looking at all the possibilities and one of them was that the father should have been treated as a suspect, which would have kept him in place a lot more. But they did canvass the area and the incriminating element was found but not transmitted to the French police by the Moroccan detective who found it, but given to the Moroccan journalist. Sorry folks but Moroccans in France and particularly in the police are rotten and the piece of evidence will be hijacked for eight years. This anti-Romanian and anti-Moroccan stance is frankly nothing but racist and that is absolutely irritating in the anti-immigrant stance it reveals, including European immigrants.
The last point has to do with the opening and closing scenes of the last episode that drag Russia into the business. That’s a cliff hanger that assimilates Romanian mafia and Russian mafia, in fact Romanian mafia and some connection with the Russian police, hence state, as if the Romanian mafia was working for the Russian state to destabilize Europe. This cliff hanger is unacceptable and you can be sure I will not get the sequel that goes along such a line, or may go along such a line. It is a ridiculous Brexit stance that has nothing to do in this real situation that connects in the end the abduction neither with the Romanian mafia and their possible human trafficking, nor with the pedophiles in the area, but with some deep local rot that turned a banal though unacceptable accident into the sign that rot travels deep among local politicians and maybe not only local. And that is not typically French: The Interpol agent from London taking advantage of the situation to conquer the mother to be his own wife is also ethically not exactly sunny bright nor crystal clear, not to speak of the conflict of interest in associating a friend of the victim’s family to the investigation.
But one thing is sure: you will enjoy the various English accents, including a “Romanian” one (reading Alice in Wonderland) and some French ones though vastly improved on what it is in reality (very poor, I can tell you). The main French detective is obviously a justified exception since he is by origin Greek, Turkish and Jewish, maybe some more, and as such has the flexibility to learn a foreign language properly.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU