You know those annoying people who every time there’s a remake of a movie, TV show, or even a song they just have to point out that they’ve already seen the original? They then of course proceed to tell you how the original is superior. Well, you can be one of them if you tune in to Sundance Channel to watch The Returned.
On top of being in the know, you’ll also catch a hauntingly beautiful piece of television. The French series (called Les Revenants in its native land) is shown with subtitles, plays like a (possibly) supernatural twist on The Sweet Hereafter, Atom Egoyan’s celebrated drama (based on the Russell Banks novel) about a small town reeling from the loss of several of its children in a bus accident. The Returned even starts out with a bus accident, and although there are 40 people on the bus, the one we are drawn to is a young girl named Camille. The bus plunges off the side of a mountainous road and everyone on board is killed.
Only four years later, Camille returns to her family, appearing just as she did the day of the accident. She has no memory of anything but waking up in the grass and coming home. Complicating things further (there’s a lot of that in The Returned) is that Camille has a twin sister, Lena, who of course has not stopped aging in the intervening years.
Camille is not the only “returned” person. The story follows several others, who vary in age, as well as time and length of disappearance. The reaction of their loved ones ranges from incredulous ecstasy to pure terror to shockingly violent. It’s riveting to watch these ordinary people react to an impossible situation. Through the three episodes made available for preview, the revelations keep coming, each one more shocking, absorbing and heartbreaking than the last. People have referred to The Returned as a zombie drama and, OK, I guess that’s one way of looking at it. But this is no Walking Dead gorefest — although there are at least two brutal murders — and the apocalypses we’re dealing with here are intensely personal rather than global.
It’s no surprise that A&E has commissioned an American remake of the series, but don’t wait around. Check it out now. And bonus points if you’re able to track down the 2004 film on which the original series is based. Of course, adding to the confusion is the ABC series Resurrection, which debuts in March and has a veeeerrry similar plot. It’s also very well done, so hopefully there’s room for both.
The Returned debuts at 9pm Thursday, Oct. 31, on Sundance Channel.