Murder At The Cottage review: Series provides a deeper sense of Du Plantier herself

Jim Sheridan's new series on Sky about the killing of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier may have been hit by the withdrawal of interviews by the victim's family, but it still provides an intriguing look at aspects of the unsolved case 
Murder At The Cottage review: Series provides a deeper sense of Du Plantier herself

Sophie Toscan du Plantier, subject of Murder at the Cottage. 

"They're gonna put me in the movies, They're gonna make a big star out of me, We'll make a film about a man that's sad and lonely, And all I gotta do is act naturally..."

The old Buck Owens number made an unlikely appearance in Murder At The Cottage, sang in a mumble by Ian Bailey in the stylish new five-part series about the death of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier.

 It was yet another curio in a tale of unending strangeness - like the spectral 'White Lady' that is said to appear from the lake atop Three Castle Head in West Cork, so much of this story is still wrapped in rumour and infamy.

Our guide is acclaimed filmmaker Jim Sheridan, emerging from behind the camera and whose wonderful Dublin drawl and shambling gait pitch him as an unlikely Irish Colombo, searching for answers about the violent murder of the French woman almost 25 years ago.

Sheridan has been working on the series for several years, but his plans recently received a blow when Du Plantier's family requested their interviews be removed from the series.

 It was reported that the family were unhappy with aspects of the documentary, including how Ian Bailey was portrayed. Bailey is the West Cork resident who was found guilty of the murder when tried in absentia by a court in France. The English ex-pat has always maintained his innocence, and has never been charged in relation to the case in Ireland.

The series is the latest manifestation of renewed international interest in the case, following on from the rampant success of the West Cork podcast, and just before the launch on June 30 of a Netflix series on the same subject.

Jim Sheridan in Murder at the Cottage, about the killing of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier. 
Jim Sheridan in Murder at the Cottage, about the killing of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier. 

On the evidence of the first two episodes, Sheridan's eye for small details and entrancing images is apparent. We get swooping drone shots of the awesome, sometimes forbidding West Cork coastline, spliced with archive footage, visceral crime scene stills, and dramatisations. As well as interviewing gardaí and locals, Sheridan also spent time with Bailey and his former partner Jules Thomas.

There are some ponderous moments, granted, albeit with a sense that Sheridan is pacing things, and arguably the show overeggs the area's oddball qualities.

Crucially, however, there is a deeper sense of Du Plantier herself - someone who carried her own sense of mystery.

Du Plantier believed she had seen the White Lady not long before her death, and was spooked. Sheridan repeatedly alludes to the sheer oddness of it all and says: "It's as if all forces conspired to protect the murderer of Sophie."

We hear that at the holiday home in Toormore, Du Plantier had an elevated bedroom so she could see Fastnet lighthouse out in the distance. We see its beacon often, its light forever rotating, and with each episode comes a sense that it may well have seen what happened - but like so many others, it's not telling.

  • All episodes of Murder At The Cottage, The Search for Justice for Sophie are available on Sky's on demand service, as well as on NOW. Episodes also air on Sundays on Sky Crime

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