Somewhere between a police procedural and a classic murder mystery, Bellevue stars our own Anna Paquin, but the real star here is the simply stunning location. Theoretically set in the mountainous small town of Bellevue in Canada, it was actually shot mostly in Thetford, a former asbestos mining town in Quebec, so the haunting snow-covered backdrop bizarrely comprises gigantic slag-heaps: Apt, perhaps, given the bizarre plot, deranged characters and claustrophobic aroma of the show.
While there are some inevitably comforting/irritating stereotypes associated with any series about a cop and her faithful sidekick (Shawn Doyle/Peter Welland), and some plot developments that at times strain credulity, overall Bellevue is strikingly different and a breath of especially chilly mountain air.
It’s not the sort of show you casually half-watch because it’s multi-levelled and requires some concentration from the viewer, and there are frequent flashbacks as well as some smart but tricky camera-work that demands your full attention. But whereas flashbacks are often used in a clunky fashion and detract from the main focus, on Bellevue everything is artfully composed and it’s a sheer delight for those of us who appreciate fine, nuanced cinematography and editing.
The main story revolves around a missing teen whose troubled life is slowly revealed as Paquin/Annie Ryder investigates and inevitably reveals a hornet’s nest of small-town frustrations, prejudice and utter strangeness. When the LGBT teen ends up dead things take a serious turn for the weird as the events begin to reflect Ryder’s own childhood mystery involving the unexplained suicide of her Dad and some invisible bloke who leaves her scary messages in the woods. The intense, driven cop inevitably begins a parallel investigation into the events of her childhood when the invisible scary bloke and his confounding messages turns up to haunt her again.
Against all this Ryder is weathering the disastrous break-up of her marriage to Allen Leech/Eddie Roe and feeling profound guilt for the destructive impact her obsessive workaholic compulsion is having on both her hubby and young daughter.
Bellevue is frequently really scary and occasionally quite gory, and the constant implied threats to Ryder (who of course, lives in an old house out by the woods) together with the chance that any of the characters could turn into homicidal freaks at any moment kept me right on the edge of my recliner.
The performances are all really excellent with special mention of course going to Paquin. In many ways this feels like her first major adult role, even though she proved her abilities quite definitively on True Blood as a comely young vampire attractant. In Bellevue, Paquin is a believable thirty-something woman who is full of often-incompatible emotions, and the fact that she’s not perfect, and makes mistakes, really counts.
I can’t help noticing that Belleview hasn’t fared that well on rating aggregate sites, which is unfortunate because it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in ages. Perhaps it’s because viewers just weren’t willing to engage with its protagonists or the overall scenario, or perhaps it’s something as simple as the dialogue audio, which frankly, sucks. It’s not the only show that – presumably in trying to sound ‘real’ – compromises the sound, but it’s a great pity that so many lines are lost, especially when there’s no subtitles available.
Audio aside, I loved Bellevue and the fact that at the end of the eight episodes, the story is genuinely finished, as those fake endings egging you on to the next series on so many shows just gets tired.
* Season 1 of Bellevue is streaming now on Neon.