After being approached by PR, I pitched and had commissioned this review for Flickering Myth
Henry Bevan reviews the hit Belgian TV series The Out-Laws…
“All ten episodes from the Belgian comedy drama which follows five sisters brought together by the death of their parents. After vowing to stick together, the bond between the Goethals sisters is tested following the marriage of Goedele (Inge Paulussen) to troublemaker Jean-Claude (Dirk Roofthooft). Resolving to get rid of their hated brother-in-law for the good of the family, the sisters come up with a number of ingenious schemes to murder him and make it look like an accident.”
You don’t choose your family. You don’t choose who your brother is or who your sister is. You don’t get to choose who your sister marries, and who becomes your in-law. Maybe you like them, or maybe you’re like the four sisters in The Out-Laws who hate their brother-in-law Jean-Claude Delcorps (Dirk Roofthooft) so much, they conspire to kill him.
The show opens with Jean-Claude’s funeral and follows two insurance investigators as they try to uncover if his death was an accident. As their investigation deepens, the show uses flashbacks to show the sisters’ scheming. The two timelines create a nice back and forth but they fail to bring any tension. The endpoint is visible from a mile away and as the show spends the majority of time in the past, it fails to fulfill the potential its premise suggests. Luckily, whilst the show struggles to stitch itself together, it excels at characterisation and is a successful examination of evil.
The writers keep the characters grounded and escalate the acts of evil. Jean-Claude begins by making prank phone calls and exploiting the awkwardness present at every family gathering before doing the unthinkable. However, even as he evolves into the moustache twirling bad guy, he keeps his heart. It is clear he loves and cares for his wife, even if he won’t sleep with her and belittles her. He’s cruel and evil but he remains human. This allows the writers to question the sisters, who are all too quick to jump to murder as their solution. Who is more evil? The cruel person or the people who try to kill him?
The sisters’ actions are disproportionate to what is originally set out. They act with reckless abandon and rack up considerable collateral damage. The quintet of actresses create a genuine family dynamic but they become too homogenised with three never emerging from behind their original identifiers. They remain known as the stern one, the one with the eye patch and the adulterous one. The two sisters who shine, Becca (Maaike Neuville) and Goedele (Inge Paulussen), stand out because they are the reluctant one and the perennial victim.
Paulussen gives a quiet performance and makes Goedele the most memorable sister. But, she spends too much time being the victim. You end up just feeling sorry for Goedele and angry that she seemingly won’t do anything about her predicament. She is just too nice.
The Out-Laws is a subtle and elegant examination of evil with the show’s writers nailing certain characterisations but it lacks the tension needed for it to become a major success.
The Out-Laws is out on DVD now from Nordic Noir & Beyond.