The 7 Lives of Lea (Les 7 vies de Léa) is a French-language Netflix Original series created by Charlotte Sanson and based on the novel Les 7 vies de Léo Belami by Nataël Trapp. Léa (Raïka Hazanavicius) is a teen in a small town where everyone knows everyone and not too many people leave just because they grew up. She’s growing up, miserable, and not likely making it too far either. But one day while in a stupor at a party, she stumbles across a dead body and cracks open a 30-year-old cold case on the death of her parents’ friend Ismaël (Khalil Ben Gharbia). To make matters worse, every night for the next seven, she wakes up in 1991 in somebody else’s body as Ismaël’s final days play out before her through the lives of the people around him. She becomes determined to save him.
I don’t even know where to begin with describing how I feel about The 7 Lives of Lea besides to say that it is truly as good as TV gets. It has everything. It has an excellent twist on time travel, absolutely lovable characters, gut-wrenching emotion superb acting, a gorgeous setting, perfect 90s aesthetic, and a daring to divide its seven episodes in a way that only heightens this all rather than fitting into a neat formula like so much of TV does these days. It’s one of my favorite watches of 2022 so far and one of the best international offerings I’ve enjoyed on Netflix yet.
The show is just filled to the brim with so many layers of plot, character, and emotion. The conceit on its face is just so fun. It’s a murder mystery wrapped inside a time traveling tale wrapped inside a 90s period piece. Every episode is from a different person’s perspective, but it’s still Léa consciously going about that person’s waking day. This leads to two things. First, it leads to hilarity. There are so many little moments that had me cracking up as Léa fumbles through other people’s lives. Sometimes she messes up pretty badly. Sometimes she helps them out. But she’s always trying her best, and the actors do such an impressive job of distinguishing between when they’re themselves and when they’re Léa physically and verbally.
My favorite part of this conceit though is how messing with perspective deepens the mystery. There is never a single moment where you’re sure of how Ismaël died, and the revelations about his life and friends’ lives only compile with every passing scene. There’s no reliable narrator whatsoever because Léa is clueless about the past. Both because her parents and other adults refuse to tell her anything ever, and because she’s a teenager with a short fuse and a lot of assumptions about the world. But this is what makes her so lovable as a character and what make the underlying darker themes of the show so much more intriguing.
And the rest of the show’s characters are all equally as lovable too, even the ones who you’d probably have hated in high school yourself. The 7 Lives of Lea goes out of its way again and again to give every character appropriate amounts of screen time, time with different sets of other characters, and perspectives to see them from, be it their own eyes or the eyes of others. It will, without a doubt, have you feeling attached to basically every character by the end and probably thinking about the people in your own life who you’re perhaps just misunderstanding.
Everyone has secrets in this show and I cannot commend it enough for how it addresses the themes inherent in these secrets. Most notably, the show tackles Léa’s own depression by broadening her perspective through the past lives and while making the modern timeline valuable through her best friendship with Romane (Maïra Schmitt) and the depth the show allows that sub-plot. The other most notable theme is how the show addresses and integrates queerness into it. There are a lot of really candid conversations about sexuality in a way very representative of Gen Zers, but moreover, it plays a deeply important role in 1991 that I absolutely cannot elaborate on further but was both beautifully handled and smartly cretes an entirely new theme about the consequences of repressing people’s sexuality. It’s just such a nuanced show and so much of its twists and turns deserve to be experienced first-hand rather than spoiled in a review.
Something else the show benefits from enormously is that it isn’t just the creation of a single director or writer. The show has a different creative team for nearly every episode and it works to its benefit greatly while feeling like a perfectly seamless production. The camerawork, the humor, and so many little details are clearly distinct between episodes which keeps things fresh and creative. And just, wow is its conclusion bold.
While I went into The 7 Lives of Lea expecting a fun time traveling mystery, I didn’t expect to also get an incredibly emotional, nuanced, hilarious, and impactful experience on top of it. Truly, it’s one of the best shows I have watched recently as it had me pausing every five minutes to either laugh hysterically or cry just the same.
The 7 Lives of Lea is streaming now on Netflix.
The 7 Lives of Lea
While I went into The 7 Lives of Lea expecting a fun time traveling mystery, I didn’t expect to also get an incredibly emotional, nuanced, and impactful experience on top of it. Truly, it’s one of the best shows I have watched recently as it had me pausing every five minutes to either laugh hysterically or cry just the same.