As the first episode opens, viewers of The Attache TV series meet Avshalom and Anabelle Cohen, a young Israeli couple planning a move to Paris with their young son, Uri.
Who are the main characters?
For the wife, Anabelle (played by French actress, Héloïse Godet), it’s a dream come true. She’s been offered a one-year stint as a cultural attaché at the Israeli embassy, embarking on what promises to be the start of a meaningful career. She’ll also be moving closer to her parents, who are ensconced in Paris.
When she tells her husband about this “opportunity,” his heart seems to sink. He’s a drummer who’s worried not only about losing his job but also his identity. Part of a musical group on the cusp of success, he learns that he can’t take his job with him. He’ll have to drop out of the band.
Out of an abundance of love, he doesn’t deny his wife this opportunity. The couple decide to give it a chance and leave for Paris, with his future now more uncertain than hers.
What is The Attache TV series about?
The ten-episode Israeli series is loosely based on a true story, written and directed by Eli Ben-David, who also plays the lead role of Avshalom. (Ben-David moved to Paris when his own wife went to work in the Israeli Embassy).
Adapting to the move proves challenging for the entire family. Young Uri (played by the talented Ilai Lax) doesn’t speak French, misses his friends, and is bullied by peers at his new pre-school.
While Annabelle is fluent in French, Avshalom has problems understanding the language and culture. He finds his in-laws more over-bearing up-close than they were at a distance. Suddenly, he is thrust into the role of primary caregiver for Uri as Annabelle’s work demands long, and often unpredictable, hours.
Annabelle seems to enjoy the sophistication of Parisian life. But her sense of self-worth and competence is challenged by a hyper-critical boss, Ofra (played by Hanna Azoulay Hasfari), whose arbitrary management style makes working beside her difficult. With each problem the couple faces in Paris, we watch the once-seemingly idyllic marriage become unhinged before our eyes.
A blend of personal and political issues
In this story, the “normal” difficulties often experienced by expats are overshadowed and compounded by the timing of the family’s move.
The series takes place amidst the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015, when gunmen and suicide bombers staged multiple, coordinated attacks at venues around the city—including a concert hall, stadium, and numerous restaurants and bars—resulting in 131 deaths and hundreds more wounded.
The immediate threat was hard felt by all Parisians but especially by Jews, often the target by anti-Semites around the world. Viewers are brought into the tension as they see uber-tight security around the embassy and its employees. Even a lower-level embassy employee like Annabelle requires a bodyguard for protection and is heeded to be careful for her family.
As police try to apprehend the terrorists and conduct raids throughout the city, Avshalom, a dark-skinned Israeli of Moroccan descent, is inadvertently caught up in a police raid, unable to explain to his captors why he is on the streets. As a result, he is apprehended and sent to jail.
Subsequent episodes reveal more about the motivations and hopes of these complex, multidimensional characters who have uprooted their lives for a new beginning abroad. It’s hard for viewers to take sides as they witness a marriage falling apart, impacted by the conflict between individual and shared aspirations.
The loving, playful father-son tie between Avshalom and Uri, somewhat reminiscent of that between Roberto Benigni and his son Giosue, in Life Is Beautiful, offers brief respites from the tense drama of the storyline.
Overall, this poignant series is gripping, well-acted by its lead actors and supporting cast. Moreover, it speaks to important social issues that are, unfortunately, still timely today—immigration, racism and the rise of far-right extremism. On a lighter note, travel lovers relegated to virtual travel during the pandemic will be drawn to the street scenes of Paris, and the comparisons between that city and the beaches of Tel Aviv.
How can I watch The Attache TV series?
- The Attache TV series premieres Monday, March 22, 2021 on AMC Network’s Acorn TV. Each of the ten, binge-worthy episodes runs 30-minutes long. Filmed in Hebrew and French, it is subtitled in English. Acorn TV is a North American streaming service specializing in British and international television.
- The series is produced by the award-winning Israeli production company, Abot Hameiri (a Fremantle company), also the producers of the hit series, Shtisel.
See The Attache Trailer on YouTube.