is so beautifully lit, populated with such attractive people, that sometimes you don't notice the clichés. Maybe this is what attracts many to
the bright and braindead holidays destinations of Love Island and Too
Hot To Handle? There was fear from this critic, an avid hater of that bleak ‘reality’ TV cesspool, that White Lines would tread a similar path. Warning bells rang when the hero of the series, Zoe (Laura Haddock), says in voiceover, ‘I didn’t realise how destructive
the truth could be… until now’. Oh, god, ten hours of this?
Zoe (Laura Haddock) investigates her brother's murder
the plot is also attractive, spinning into so many wacky directions that the
journey itself is a trippy experience. Zoe, a thirtysomething
librarian from Manchester, travels to the Balearic Islands to identify the long-dead
corpse of her brother Axel (Tom Rhys Davies). He went missing 20 years prior,
following a trip to Ibiza to make his fortune as a DJ.
Most episodes start with
Zoe dictating her troubles to camera, before circling back to reveal how she
got there. She decides to find the truth about Axel’s murder via his friends
and enemies (often one and the same), through hallucinatory night clubs and incestuous
crime families, into forests and seas and yellow-tinted flashbacks from 1996. But
as she plunges further into the lighter and darker areas of the island, she uncovers a different side to herself. She’s vivid, exciting, and resourceful; an excellent and
exceedingly flawed amateur detective.
Zoe's brother Axel (Tom Rhys Davies, 2nd left) is/was a carpe dium-possessed maniac
himself, seen entirely in flashback, is a divisive figure. He's a carpe dium-possessed maniac, desperate for the dopamine from drugs, sex, and DJing with a
pose mimicking Christ the Redeemer. There’s a hedonistic, Wolf of Wall Street abandon
to his dangerous insistence on having a good time, which spills into his sister's present-day experiences. And much
like the ill-fated Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, so many characters fall
in love with him or, at least, wield a heavy lust for his living-in-the-present
this very familiar plot drives the series, it’s the strangely detailed
characters that keep you on the island. There’s Marcus (Daniel Mays), the loveable loser and drug peddler who owes money to the wrong people. Boxer (Nuno Lopez)
is a club-owner and head of security for the Calafat crime family, but he also likes
Jean-Luc Godard and painting women’s feet.
Daniel Mays stars as the lovable loser, Marcus
But the strangest appearance, by far,
is from Laurence Fox. Yes, the same barely-known actor who made that
controversial Question Time appearance. He plays an addict-turned-spiritual-guru, another old friend of Axel, and he's difficult to take seriously.
A huge part of the White Lines’ appeal is in its sordid temptations. Axel’s
transgressive joy looks like intense fun, even for this introverted critic, but
ties with a painful, thirty-something existentialism. Characters are hit hard with
the knowledge that the best years are behind them. Ibiza exists on a separate
plane of existence, worlds away from the grim grey of Manchester, offering so
many possibilities for Zoe. But violence, abuse, murder, and heartbreak are
quick to follow her.
Like Zoe's experiences, White Lines offers plenty of disorientating pleasure; a bingeable cure to self-isolation.
White Lines is available on Netflix from Friday 15 May
|What||White Lines, Netflix review|
15 May 20 – 15 May 21, ON NETFLIX