DROPS OF GOD Review: Like Fine Wine, Gets Better As It Goes
Fleur Geffrier and Yamashita Tomohisa star in the swirling dramatic series, created by Quoc Dang Tran, now streaming on Apple TV+.
You had me at Quoc Dang Tran.
Drops of God
The first six episodes are now streaming on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will debut weekly. I've seen all eight episodes.
Last year, I quickly became entranced with the French-language Parallels, a time-traveling adventure on Disney Plus. In my review I described it as "a marvelous series that touches deep emotions dealing with families and friendship." The series was created by Quoc Dang Tran, a French writer/producer known for the Netflix horror series Marianne, as well as the crime thriller Nox and other shows, who became "the first French writer to sign [a first-look] deal with a major studio," as reported by Deadline.
His latest series is Drops of God, adapted from a manga series about wine by Tadashi Agi, and illustrated by Shu Okimoto that was first published in 2004, eventually stretching into many, many volumes. A live-action version was produced for Japanese television in 2009.
The manga focused solely on Japanese characters in the Japanese wine world. Rather than 'translating the manga literally," said Quoc Dang Tran last year, he and his creative team decided to "make it a kind of West versus East story."
In the first episode, Camille (Fleur Geffrier) hurries from her home in France to Japan at the urgent request of her estranged father, who dies while she's in flight. Dutifully, she attends his funeral and stays for the reading of his will, where she learns that she may have inherited her father's rare wine collection, valued at more than $100 million, but first she must engage in a three-pronged competition with her father's "spiritual son," Issei (Yamashita Tomohisa), a top student in her father's university oenology class.
The competition, with rules dictated by her father, who became wealthy after writing a series of incredibly popular and influential annual wine guides, requires first that Camille and Issei drink a glass of wine and correctly identify it. One problem: she gets physically ill from the taste of alcohol.
The first episode is dramatically sober, laying out Camille's feelings about her father, who abandoned her and her mother (Cecile Bois) some years before, in contrast with Issei's feelings about his mother, who demands that he give up his interest in wine and come work at the incredibly successful family diamond business.
The first four episodes steadily reveal more about Camille and Issei, and their relationship with wine and their families. Since Camille has avoided wine altogether, she must take a crash course in oenology at a French vineyard whose owner (Gustave Kervern) was great friends with her father; his handsome son (Tom Wozniczka) provides instruction.
Meanwhile, Issei must stoically deal with the demands of his strict mother (Makiko Watanabe) and his even more domineering grandfather, who owns the diamond business, while Issei's father meekly stands by.
Events in the fourth episode shine a new light on everything that preceded it, and sets the stage for episodes five and six, in which Camille and Issei enter the second stage of their competition, which draws increasing worldwide attention. Episode six, which debuts today, sends Camille to Italy in search of clues. Issei enters into a strange new world at home in Japan, as a friendly journalist (Nanami Kameda) draws closer to him.
Episode six is lighter than the previous episodes, in part because it largely takes place in and around a variety of vineyards in Italy, whose owners are suspicious of Camille and Lorenzo (Luca Terracciano), an Italian-speaking sommelier working at a restaurant in Japan, owned by the friendly and helpful Luca (Diego Ribon).
The series gently expands to include the people that Camille meets and sometimes befriends, such as Lorenzo and his fellow worker and restaurant wine steward Miyabi (Kyoko Takenaka), and some of the characters in their younger years, which gradually sheds more light on their motivations and actions, and subsequently envelops the viewer more deeply into the wine world, even if, like me, you have no particular affinity for wine.
It's the people that drew me in: characters who act of their own accord, and behave in a manner that feels very authentic. Quoc Dang Tran and his collaborators Clémence Madeleine-Perdrillat and Alice Vial write convincing, sharp dialogue, and the story flows easily with a strong current, always pushing it forward, even as it takes little side-trips. Oden Ruskin's direction of all eight episodes is excellent, capturing sterling performances with subtle visual flair that becomes more apparent as the series progresses.
(Almost as a side note, I hasten to point out the series' wonderfully graceful, multi-lingual approach, as the characters switch from French to Japanese to English to Italian as the situation warrants. I loved this. Bravo!)
Episode 6, as with all the episodes, concludes on a strong note that sparks a desire to see what happens next. I was slow to catch on to the series, but give it a couple episodes, and you'll soon be shopping for wine too.
I blame Quoc Dang Tran, a creative force who infuses the series with a light touch that nonetheless commands attention.
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