A recent study confirmed that brain wave activity sometimes continues for several minutes after arterial blood pressure ceases. In other words, the exact boundary between life and death is often difficult to determine. That’s not the specific premise of Hotel Beau Séjour, the Netflix Original TV series from Belgium, but this murder mystery features someone – the victim – caught in the space between life and death.
As Hotel Beau Séjour begins, Kato (Lynn Van Royen), a teenage girl, “wakes up” in a hotel room. Going into the bathroom, she finds her own bloody body in the bathtub. Hearing someone coming, she flees the scene before she has time to process what is going on. As Kato encounters other people, she realizes they cannot see or hear her. She thinks she may be dead.
Meanwhile, Kato’s family discover she is missing. Her mother, father, stepfather, stepsister, and brother go through the usual steps of realization, horror, and grief as the police get involved and, eventually, a body discovered.
This is not a new idea for a TV series. Numerous movies, books, and shows have played variations on this theme. There are a couple of things that make Hotel Beau Séjour somewhat different. One is that Kato becomes an investigator herself, taking notes and searching for clues.
Minor spoiler in this paragraph. Scroll to the next if you don’t want to know. The other is that – it turns out – several people can see and hear Kato. Part of the mystery is why this particular group and Kato can still interact. While we and they figure that out, Kato tries to involve them in the investigation.
The local police are not quite competent or motivated enough to solve this case. It’s a small town with lots of interconnections and relationships, some of which stand in the way. Fortunately, federal police are brought in, but the two female investigators make an awkward team. It all makes a dense tangle, one that is slow to unravel.
The rural setting and the Belgian landscape – shown as spacious and lonely – are beautifully filmed. This visual interest helps, as Hotel Beau Séjour is slow moving. The series feels like an art house drama without sex, violence, or action. There is depth to the case and characters, but they are viewed with a sense of detachment, much as Kato is now detached from her old life.
The Hotel Beau Séjour TV series was produced by Demenson for Belgian TV, where it first aired in January 2017. The eight episodes clock in at 45 – 50 minutes each. It’s worth noting the opening credit sequence and music are oddly reminiscent of True Detective. Hotel Beau Séjour may not match the best of what we saw last year, but after the early 2017 foreign TV shows drought, it’s a welcome addition to the Netflix roster.
Hotel Beau Séjour TV series trailer
Minor spoilers included. Watch at your own risk!