I Know Who You Are is a Spanish language thriller, unusual for BBC4 who seem to cover Scandinavia and France with their Saturday night detective drama slot. This was a hugely popular series with fans and critics. So just what is all the fuss about?
The first shot is almost zombie film imagery – a lone survivor of some nameless horror stumbling along the highway. This is Juan Elias (Francesc Garrido),a notorious and brutal lawyer, academic and general legal eagle. He’s the husband to a high court judge with all the right connections, and dad to two kids. Elias (confusingly everyone calls him by his middle name) finds all this out at the same speed as the viewer. He has what seems to be almost total amnesia after a car accident. Only he wasn’t alone in the car. His niece Ana has gone missing and there’s forensic evidence linking her to the crash. She’s missing and he hasn’t a clue what’s happened, or so he says.
The storytelling is good, despite amnesia being a bit of a TV cliche, but we do get a handy news summary while Elias is patched up in hospital so that his wife Alicia (Blanca Portillo) doesn’t have to do all the exposition. She’s a steely-looking woman, who accepts no-nonsense from anyone and seems determined to stand by her man, whatever his state of mind might be.
Ana’s slightly creepy step-brother (I’m keeping my eye on him) has a horrific voicemail message that Ana left on his phone when she was attacked. He is eaten up by guilt that he didn’t take the call. Meanwhile Ana’s father is hiring private prosecutors before she’s even been gone 24 hours. He’s determined to take his brother-in-law Elias down. I guess this isn’t the first time they’ve come to blows. We learn a thing or two about the Spanish judicial system – the private prosecution against Elias will run alongside the state prosecution. Each side has to be very careful who they appoint as professional rivalries and jealousies ripple through the offices of the Spanish lawyers, but Ana’s disappearance brings it all to a head.
The private prosecution team are Eva and David – young hot shots, both very handsome. David is a pretty boy who seems to spend more time shagging than in the courtroom. They are convinced amnesia is fake as it’s a tactic used by Elias many times before. He gets his clients to plead post-traumatic amnesia in order to get bail. Elias and his partner make me laugh – the remind me of the Mitchell and Webb sketch “Are we the bad guys?” The firm have made many enemies who will all want to put the boot in while Elias is a trouble. It seems like Elias has been fairly shady in his previous life.
Elias himself takes a turn for the intriguing when it appears he’s searched for something online using his daughter’s computer and then had the presence of mind to wipe the search history. He plays the haunted fearful victim of a brain injury with real innocence, but he has a sly look in his eye and looming presence glowering at his friends and family. Is he actually Harvey Dent? He was quite dull up to this point but this makes him much more interesting. Watching him get out all the breakfast things, then put them back in the cupboards and ask his daughter for help shows he’s remembered a lot more than he’s letting on. But knowing how to make cereal is quite different to knowing what happened to Ana.
Elias seems like he might be growing a conscience, newly concerned with personal morality. And yet goes to Eva’s house saying because of their affair many years ago she is the only person he can remember, and compromising her place on the prosecution team. He’s especially menacing as he stands in her hallway, and seems to be careful not to leave any fingerprints. Is this man confused, or clear in his actions?
I Know Who You Are is hard work to get into the swing of things. Spanish subtitles are not renowned for their brevity so it’s quite hard to keep up. The first episode is fairly interesting but not a winner for me. However BBC4 know to put their foreign language stuff on as a double bill and episode 2 is much more action packed – the pacing is better, the characters being to reveal themselves and there’s an especially disturbing scene in a private hospital room where Alicia really lets Elias know the kind of people they are, and what they’ve sacrificed for their seemingly perfect lifestyle.
Oh, and the police arrive on the scene with perfect timing, exactly as Elias and his business partner are frantically unearthing a suspicious package in the garden. The inspector looks super competent in his Columbo style raincoat. What’s the Spanish for just one more thing?
I think this one is a grower and it certainly seems that its popularity grew and grew during its BBC outing. If I were you I’d get on it, and brush up your conversational Spanish.
I Know Who You Are is out now on DVD Box Set from our friends at Nordic Noir & Beyond
Have a look at the trailer: