TV miniseries review: Scratch My Back / Voor wat hoort wat (2015)
tl;dr: Another great Belgian comedy drama!
I admit, as soon as I saw “Belgian comedy drama” on Walter Presents, I was sold. This did not disappoint.
Tucked away somewhere on the Flemish coast (filmed in Knocke-Heist near Zeebrugge) is La Belle Epoque, a luxury retirement home run by Viviane (Tiny Bertels). The glory days are gone and the place is struggling to keep open. It needs more staff, but there’s no money to hire any. But wait – what about getting young first-time offenders to work for them as part of their community service? Problem solved!
Cue four reluctant teenagers: Amber (Lize Feryn), Nouri (Sahin Avci), Roxy (Maxime Vandommele), and Sverre (Jacob Ooghe), all with their own crosses to bear, from petty shoplifting to grand theft auto. None of them are really cut out for working in a retirement home to begin with, but once they get to know the residents, things begin to change …
And if that sounds too cute, it’s not very cute at all. The old-timers decide they don’t want to move out of their home, however much it’s failing and decide to take matters into their own hands in order to raise cash when the bank manager (Jan Hammenecker) isn’t much help. As the residents see it, they have literally nothing to lose, and just because they’re old doesn’t mean they lack in cunning.
The story is told in different time settings, like The Out-Laws. For instance, the opening scene with Mia (Marilou Mermans), Ad (Peter Faber) and the inimitable Gaby (Gerda Marchand) is set three months or so in the future, and then it cuts back and forth a bit in time until we’re all caught up with the present in the final episode. And what a ride it is! For the most part, Scratch My Back is a fairly low-key human drama with the occasional giggle, but it turns into a full-on, action-packed heist (!) style thing at the end. The change in tone and tempo was delightful!
I came to really care for the characters, whether it was the uncertain “might they?” between Gilbert the cook (Wouter Bruneel) and managing assistant Joyce (Daisy Van Praet), or the tender love between a husband, Frans (Jaak Van Assche), and his dementia-suffering wife, Maggie (Hilde Uitterlinden). Then there’s Flo (Chris Lomme), the bohemian who lived in Paris for so long, and still might like to get back there with her memories.
There might be a generational gap, but the way they help each other grow is wonderful. There’s nothing two-dimensional about the young offenders either. They’re not bad kids, and to see them slowly learn to open up to others is really nice to see. Both generations challenge their prejudices against one other. The teenagers aren’t going to kill the pensioners in their sleep and steal their money, and the pensioners aren’t just, y’know, old fogeys who need to pee all the time. (Well, except for Gaby, who has a nervous bladder, of course!) Everyone feels like a well-rounded character and I enjoyed how they learned to work together for the greater good – in this case, keeping the retirement home open. Sometimes it’s nice when the stakes aren’t on a galaxy-saving scale, and gosh, the Belgians are great at these type of shows … she says, having now watched the sum total of two. If Walter keeps presenting them, I’ll keep watching.
4.5 out of 5 flaring tempers.