TV: Ad Vitam (Season 1)

French science fiction series Ad Vitam is less than gripping, but it’s a well produced, moody glimpse of a bright but unsettling future. Set in a world where regeneration science has dramatically extended human lifespans, the series involves the efforts of a veteran police detective named Darius Asram (Yvan Attal) to solve a case involving seven minors who wash up dead on a beach. It looks like a mass suicide, and Asram believes it ties back to an event ten years earlier, when a suicide cult full of disaffected teenagers started a tragic movement, reacting to a society that has disempowered them. To help him solve the case, Darius enlists Christa Novak (Garance Marillier), a survivor of the earlier tragedy who may have insight into the cultists’ mindset. Together, Darius and Christa work to solve the case, uncovering discomfiting truths about the brave new world science has made possible for them.

Although the series is only six episodes, Ad Vitam feels padded, and might have been more effective as a long movie. But while the narrative occasionally flags, I quite enjoyed its eerie, futuristic mood and the decidedly different psychology of its world: an outwardly cheery, almost utopian setting that clearly has dark secrets hiding under the surface. The retro, synthetic soundtrack is surprisingly effective, creating an unnerving Blade Runner-like atmosphere. Meanwhile, Attal and Marillier are both terrific in understated, nicely designed roles, and they bring a rallying father-daughter chemistry to their grim adventure. An intriguing series of thought-provoking, psychological science fiction.

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