Review by Camden Ferrell
After their acclaimed and fantastic documentary, On the Record, directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering return with Allen v. Farrow, a miniseries that details the sexual abuse allegations against Woody Allen in the 90’s. While the documentary doesn’t have as comprehensive a scope as the story warrants, it’s an effective look into the private life of its titular couple as well as the effect it has on the family unit.
Woody Allen was an Oscar winning writer and director who was much admired in the world for his contributions to the film world. His partner of 12 years and frequent co-star, Mia Farrow, was also a famous actress with a successful film career. However, their lives became the subject of public scrutiny after allegations were made that Allen had sexually abused his 7-year-old daughter, Dylan. This is an infamous story that is being brought back into the spotlight due to the current social climate, and it’s a surprising story that bears a lot of relevance on modern issues.
Stories like this are often hard to approach. It’s a case that has been the source of lots of controversy and continued dispute, and the film had the task of trying to honestly tell its story without subjecting it to a lot of the sensationalism that has surrounded these events. For the most part, the series is thoroughly researched and presents the evidence and testimonies in a straightforward manner. It doesn’t use superficial techniques to try and add flair to the story, but it mostly focuses on the informed testimony and opinions of professionals in several different medical and legal fields.
The series consists of home video footage, news reels, recorded phone calls, and an abundance of present-day testimony from its subjects. It can sometimes feel like there is an over reliance on this testimony, and it uses it as a crutch to supplement its narrative. While this provides more retrospective insight into events, it suffers from a lack of multiple perspectives. The Farrow family and their close friends make up most of the testimony, and it can make the whole series feel a bit one-sided at time.
One of the film’s biggest flaws comes from the aforementioned lack of perspective. The series justifies this by declaring that Allen, his wife, and one of his children refused to be interviewed for the series. However, for a series titled Allen v. Farrow, a lot of it centers around the Farrows. The series juggles the retelling of the allegations against Allen with the story and journey of Dylan Farrow. While these are both very important elements of the series, it never finds a good balance of those two dynamics.
The unevenness of its presentation is disappointing considering its ample runtime. At around four hours, it definitely feels like the series could have explored the actual case a little bit more as well as its aftermath. Of the four episodes, episode three is the most accomplished due to its brisk pace and compelling recounting of events. The other episodes can drag in comparison and not feel as entertainingly informative as the others.
Despite its flaws, this is a thematically significant series especially in today’s social landscape. Regardless of your views on Allen and Farrow, it’s important to give consideration to the perspective of survivors now more than ever. This series heavily focuses on the enduring trauma left by abuse, and it’s an aspect that the directors really excel in, and it is the heart of the miniseries.
Allen v. Farrow may provide new information even to those who are familiar with the case. It sometimes drags in certain episodes, but it’s an interesting exploration into the events surrounding this controversy.
Allen v. Farrow, a 4-part mini-series, premieres on HBO and HBO Max February 21 at 9:00 P.M. EST.