Sophie: A Murder in West Cork checks all those boxes while reminding us of the real-life stakes on each side of the crime.
Netflix docuseries Sophie: A Murder in West Cork will be released on the streaming service on June 30, 2021.
West Cork was a quiet, tranquil, seaside town nestled in a pocket of Ireland’s coast. It had very little crime. If people aren’t taking in its scenic, quaint water views, it’s nothing but acres of farmland. Most of those places had little electricity, and your closest neighbors are over a mile away. If someone were murdered, no one would hear. That’s what happened in Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, a searing docuseries that looks at how the investigation takes on a life of its own.
In the town’s only murder, a famous French socialite and documentary film producer were killed by an unknown assailant. It’s a remote region, and Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed on a blustery night in the mid-90s. Found outside her Irish farmhouse, her demise has been unsolved for almost three decades. Well, kind of. It depends on what country you get the news from.
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork is directed by John Dower (The Mystery of D.B. Cooper). He has surrounded himself with quite the pedigree of esteemed documentary filmmakers behind the scenes. Produced by Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugarman), Selina Ferguson (Tina), and Jonathan Chinn (Tell Me Who I Am, L.A. 92), Sophie: A Murder in West Cork continues Netflix’s run of engrossing true crime docuseries.
In fact, after watching so many of them and reading so many reports on how most of these series take tunnel vision to obscene levels, it’s easy to question what the filmmakers are leaving out. Sophie had a handful of very rich (and very old) French exes. You also have a self-proclaimed Irish poet who catches the cop’s eyes. Even a crazy woman who keeps changing her story on suspects she saw roaming around the deserted hamlet.
They are certainly not short of suspects. By the time the focus of the documentary finds its prime one (I won’t give it away, because the end of the first episode is a doozy), you begin to wonder if these are the old cliche of a sociopath inserting themselves into the investigation of an inept crime task force who put all their eggs in one basket.
The case lasted decades, with Ireland fending off France’s demands to extradite a suspect Ireland refuses to charge. The filmmakers point to incompetence from the police (an entire metal gate goes missing that most likely had blood and DNA on it). Dower’s film does an admirable job with an equal (somewhat) defense of a suspect. One of the defenders tells the camera he felt they were a suspect based on who he was. A boorish, prickly drunk whose arrogance can only be described as a combination of an excessive ego and zero humility.
You begin to question how this person of interest, who seems to have no money, can afford 25 years of legal bills. All without a legitimate job or family money in the bank. The fact that political lawmakers refused to charge them with anything is head-scratching. All of this points to this suspect having some guardian angel. Though, its intent and focus never wavers to explore these avenues.
Still, this is what a good docuseries are all about. The tragic crime, a taste of the macabre, and a certain type of suspense ensure viewer paranoia and innate human nature to solve mysteries by putting the pieces together. Sophie: A Murder in West Cork checks all those boxes while reminding us of the real-life stakes on each side of the crime.