TV review: Hotel Beau Séjour, Channel 4
- Deborah Chu
- 27 September 2019
Belgian noir drama with intriguing premise fails to land an emotional punch
At face value, Hotel Beau Séjour ticks all the boxes of a traditional Euro crime drama, with atmospheric scenescapes and moody detectives in turtleneck jumpers aplenty. The supernatural twist on this Belgian offering is that the dead don't stay that way for long, as teenager Kato Hoeven (Lynn Van Royen) awakens in a strange hotel room and stumbles across her own bloodied corpse.
Soon she realises that no one can see her, except for a select group of people each with a dark connection to her murder and their own reasons for wanting to keep quiet about her presence. The grisly nature of her death results in two federal detectives, Marion Schneider (Katrin Lohmann) and Dora Plettinckx (Mieke De Groote), being parachuted into the sleepy town of Dilsen-Stokkem, where they immediately face resistance from an inept local police force, helmed by crooked chief Alexander Vinken (Johan van Assche).
Despite this compelling world-building, there's a critical absence of emotional heft in Hotel Beau Séjour. Inge Paulussen appears suitably haggard as Kato's grieving mother, Kristel, but even she cannot compensate for the show's ultimate lack of feeling. Much of this perhaps comes down to the fact that, from the audience's perspective, Kato is still around, though even she is oddly cavalier about being dead.
Moreover, as a character, Kato is the most thinly sketched-out of the cast, so there's never a convincing sense of personal loss at the drama's heart. Her interference in her own murder investigation also contrives to make the detectives seem incapable of putting the pieces together on their own and thus make them difficult protagonists to root for, despite the show clearly positing Schneider as its moral centre. Despite its flaws, Hotel Beau Séjour will still appeal to those looking for a noir drama in the vein of Broadchurch, with its immersive portrait of a small town's seedy underbelly and the local resentments that burst forth in fatal ways.
Episodes watched: 10 of 10
Hotel Beau Séjour starts on Channel 4, Sunday 29 September, 11pm. After episode one airs, the whole series is available on All4.