There are a number of similarities between Bon Voyage and the psycho-thriller And Soon the Darkness (1970), which concerned two English girls on a cycling tour of the French countryside being stalked by a killer. In both works, the French countryside is at the fore, yet becomes something sinister and brooding as the protagonists idyllic holiday goes wrong and members of their party go missing. The central theme in both is of English tourists alone in a pretty countryside, isolated by not knowing the language. Bon Voyage makes considerable virtue of its locations. The journey through the French countryside in the first part comes with a rustic beauty as we accompany the family on their drive through quaint villages and past regal old churches. The locations have been chosen for maximum pictographic value and, if nothing else, Bon Voyage serves as a fabulous travelogue of the French countryside.
The threat presented by Daniel Ryan and Fay Ripley initially hovers with an ambiguity and does not fully emerge until the end of the first part. You wonder for a time if much of it is not simply in Ben Miles and Rachael Blakes minds the supposedly sinister couple seem terribly normal and we wonder if Bens impulsive decision to leave the morning after meeting them is not just snobbery, while other scenes like the crazed road race seem more like him hot-headedly acting to threats he only imagines. We also see tensions bubbling beneath the family Neils obsession with his work and the constant interruption of their holiday by work calls on his cellphone, the suggestion that Elizabeth might have had an affair and Rachels desire for freedom from parental control. The plot snakes around with considerable dexterity. There comes a jolt at the end of the first part when the family run the missing kid down and then, in an attempt to get help, their own children are abducted and they find themselves blamed for Tobys murder by authorities.
In the second half, the image of the couple, particularly Fay Ripley with her chirpy provincial accent, pretending that everything is normal and determined to force the children to enact their concept of a family unit proves disquieting. Director John Fawcett constantly emphasizes the ordinariness of things the cat nonchalantly walking by as Fay Ripley and Daniel Ryan come downstairs from the room where the children are imprisoned, or the sheer banality of them all playing a game of cards. This sits aside a sense of danger that explodes with a moments notice like where the children both defy orders to feed toast to the cat, only for Daniel Ryan to get up and abruptly snap the cats neck. There is also a constant lurking undertow of sexual predatoriness between Daniel Ryan and 16-year-old Emily Beecham.
All the performances in the film are good to a person. Surprisingly, the best known among the group, Fay Ripley, gets the least screen time out of the adult principals and is unceremoniously outfitted in an obvious wig.