For a bit of escapist viewing, let the new dramedy series Réunions transport you to the sun-drenched French island of Réunion.
The reunions in Réunions are of two kinds. There is the tropical French island of Réunion, located in the Indian Ocean, and a family reunion, the latter of which happens on the former.
On a fine day in the city of Roubaix in Northern France, hairdresser Chloé Delorme (Laëtitia Milot, Olivia, Bright-Eyed Revenge) is relieved that a bank has given her a 4,000 euro loan, which she intends to use to pay the arrears on the mortgage. Elsewhere in the city, Chloé’s working-class/gig economy partner, Jérémy Rivière (Loup-Denis Elion, Scènes de ménages, Murder in Lille), is handing out flyers when he receives a call from an attorney. What Maître Saint-Rose tells him makes the day at once darker and brighter.
Jérémy has inherited 50% of the hotel on Réunion owned by the father he never knew, who has just died. The other half goes to the half-brother Jérémy never knew he had, but no matter, because his own share should put an end to his and Chloé’s money worries. So it’s off to Réunion they go, setting off on what is supposed to be a short but financially fruitful holiday along with their blended family of three children and Chloé’s ex-partner, Dominique (Origins).
Antoine Bouville (Nicolas Bridet, Spin, Les petits meurtres d’Agatha Christie), Jérémy’s brother from another mother, is a hotel manager who lives with his wife, Victoire (Sara Martins, Death in Paradise, Détectives), also a professional, and their two children in a posh house on Réunion. He knows his late father’s hotel well, despite having declined his père‘s dozens of offers to work there.
Soon after their arrival on Réunion, Jérémy and Chloé learn from Antoine that the rundown Hôtel le Lagon has debts up to here and has been more or less idle, save for a handful of guests. So much for their money troubles being over. But in looking at the situation through her glass-half-full optimism, Chloé sees this as their chance to start a brand new life.
Except Jérémy and Vanessa (Marie de Dinechin, Ibiza), Chloé’s 14-year-old, social media-obsessed daughter with Dom, want to go back to Roubaix. (Chloé hasn’t yet told them that they don’t have a home to go back to.) Whether they like it or not, Réunion is their new home, and Jérémy and Chloé have no choice but to transform the near-bankrupt hotel into a money-making one. For this they need Antoine’s help. Victoire, though, is against the idea of the two newly-introduced half-brothers working together. Perhaps she would have gotten her way in another situation, but in this one blood trumps marriage.
Working at the hotel together is one thing. Keeping the two families together and at peace is an altogether different matter.
Change isn’t easy, and change in which you have no say in the matter can be exceedingly difficult. Such is the case with Vanessa, an unlikeable character whose bad attitude creates tension all around — and which serves as a flash point for exploring our notions of parenting, corporal punishment, and the role of social media in young people’s lives, as well as the power of being adaptive rather than resistant.
Both couples in Réunions are interracial and their children are mixed-race, Black and White — both commonplace occurrences such that little is made of their colors in the series. However, when Jérémy’s Black mother and Antoine’s White mother are introduced in the third episode, race does come into play, as does socioeconomic status. Through these characters, viewers are pointed to the theme of knowing one’s roots, to the stories people tell to avoid embarrassment and shame, and to the rationales people use to justify their actions. Other themes explored in the show include young love, taboo relationships, and parent-child bonding.
What I initially thought was going to be a breezy romp of a dramedy set on an idyllic tropical island turned out to be a show that’s much deeper, albeit delivered in a light-handed and warmhearted way. And the scenery is gorgeous!
Costars in the six-episode series include Matteo Perez (Captain Sharif) as Maxime, Chloé and Dom’s son; newcomer Mathis Larobe as Enzo, Chloé and Jérémy’s son; Delixia Perrine (Cut) as Viana, Jérémy’s mother; Olenka Ilunga (Cut) and newcomer Gilles Agelou as Lucie and Frédéric, the children of Antoine and Victoire; and Éva Darlan (Murder in Lille) as Jeanne, Antoine’s mother.
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