Les Revenants: A Slow Burner

French Zombie Apocalypse...pfft. 

The eighth and final episode in the first series of français The Returned was shown on British television screens two weeks ago now, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this Heaux review proves that I am far from on top of my television game. 

BUT in my defence, The Returned finale is one that can be allowed a little space to breathe; for motifs and themes to really build and solidify in your mind.  To be frank, that two week rest-bite has transformed my opinion of the show, from a torturous example of style over substance, to a deliciously fresh take on the walking-dead genre that leaves me hungry for more. 

Programmes with sub-titles are pretty much a non-entity on British screens. The Danish offering of The Killing broadcast on BBC4, gave many a viewer the pleasant surprise of learning that sometimes, subtitles aren’t a complete hindrance but can even add to the television experience, forcing us to put down our phones, step away from the laptop, and focus on the screen so as not to miss any important nuggets of information. 

I’ve watched some other French television offerings; namely a dodgy sketch show broadcast at 3a.m, perfect for a student whose body clock was completely screwed up, living with a housemate whose THIRD language happens to be English, her second French, and an equally poor response to the morning alarm clock. I have to admit, much was lost in translation with that one, more confusion and horror as opposed to giggles. The Returned though, is one that definitely crosses the language barrier.

A tiny town nestled somewhere in the French Alps becomes home to both the living and the un-dead. Tragedy seems to perpetually cast a long shadow over the community, with most of its inhabitants in some stage of loss or grief, and a surprising amount of death and murder taking place within such a small population. 

It’s this co-habitation that makes The Returned such engrossing viewing. Turning their back on the predictable blood-fest that usually defines the genre, the creators of The Returned instead focus on how and even if the living can cope with return of their loved ones, who’d they’d somehow managed to learn to live without many years before. 
Many of us will know from first hand-experience that learning to grieve over a loved one, and then most importantly MOVE ON, is one of the hardest things we have to experience. It’s natural to wish that the person you’ve lost would come back to you. The Returned resurrects that age-old observation, “Be careful what you wish for”. 

This offering is definitely all about the atmosphere. From the opening titles, in itself a beautiful work of art, and the expertly chosen soundtrack provided by Scottish band Mogwai, there is more than enough for the senses to take in. 

I can completely understand where people are coming from when they argue that nothing really happens, but truthfully, in an age of golden television with some of the best offerings we’ve seen for a while, and a roll-call that bitch-slaps recent cinema offerings around the face, The Returned offers something refreshingly different, and dare I say it, very very French.