In the thriller series Two Summers A group of friends’ relationship shatters on the cliffs of a sun-drenched private island off the coast of southern France. A group of Flemish childhood friends reunite to celebrate Romée’s birthday with her husband Peter in an idyllic setting. From day one, a slumbering and cruel secret divides the four men and four women who, thirty years ago, celebrated a summer of youthful hubris.
“There is booze in an amount that is absolutely unjustifiable, so it can only get more fun,” Peter states hopefully during the first toast, but at the start the six-part series shows all the ominous ingredients of a well-known thriller concept: a group of old acquaintances with mutual resentment is cut off from the outside world. The staff has been sent home, the currents around the island are dangerous, a rifle pops up to shoot clay pigeons and there is no range.
The story is fueled by – spoiler alert – the reappearance of horrific images from 1992 that most of the men in the group believed to have been destroyed. Sofie was filmed being the victim of a gang rape. The sexual abuse was known to all male members of the group but was kept secret from Sofie, who was unconscious during the crime due to drink and drug use. Didier later married her. For all the friends there is something at stake with the release of the images, including the apparent outsider Lia, Peter’s brother’s younger girlfriend.
Sharp plot twists
Two Summers is deadly vicious, disenchanting, violent and occasional and soft. Despite the somewhat predictable decor, the crime drama unfolds as a layered Flemish thriller with a sublime build-up of tension. It doesn’t just fulfill expectations with sharp plot twists; the series surprises mainly because it questions your own assumptions. For example, in the division of roles in the difficult marriage between Romée and Peter, the viewer is sublimely misled. Laterally, themes such as sexism, class, materialism and jealousy between a group of friends are touched upon. When alliances are forged outside the group, loyalties can change in a flash. The story is acquired with flashbacks, in which it becomes clear how the relationships within the group developed in the summer of 1992.
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It is remarkable that directors Brecht Vanhoenacker and Tom Lenaerts (the latter wrote the script together with Paul Baeten Gronda) do not offer any character redemption from the plight. Everyone wallows in his or her shortcomings, and maturity does not equate to finding a clear moral compass. The fact that the sometimes quickly succeeding revelations do not seem too soapy is due to the excellent play of the cast, in which acquaintances such as Ruth Becquart, from the series undercover, excel. If something has to be negotiated with the script, it is that the emphasis is mainly on the theatrical dialogues and that the story in images or physical play is sometimes given too fragmentary space. Furthermore, it is wrong Two Summers not to be in the same breath with Undercover to be called as an eye-catching series from the Dutch language area. Understandably, the series scores well on Netflix.