Review by Tatiana Miranda
In the same vein as her acclaimed documentary Abducted in Plain Sight, Skye Borgman's latest true crime Netflix original, Girl in the Picture, is filled with plenty of twists that keep its audience waiting in anticipation as the story unravels. Beginning after the discovery of the death of a young woman in Oklahoma City in 1990, the plot quickly thickens as it is revealed the name she had been living under, Tonya Hughes, is not her true name, and her supposed husband is not who he claimed to be. As the nation tries to track down the woman's son, who her husband kidnapped after her death, more and more information about her true identity becomes known.
Girl in the Picture's format and pacing put the audience in the position of those who watched the mystery unfold as it happened and when they began to discover more and more information about 'Tonya Hughes' and the circumstances surrounding her life and death. The documentary is shown in a non-linear format, starting in the '90s and working its way back before jumping to the 2000s, when the case began to hit the public eye. Journalist Matt Birkbeck published two non-fiction novels that served as the basis for Girl in the Picture, which he also executive produced.
While Borgman treats the true crime story with care and accuracy, her directing style is nothing remarkable in terms of documentaries. Talking head interviews of those associated with the case mix with various re-enactments that depict key moments from the true account. Because of its simplicity, the real tragedy of the girl in the picture gives the documentary plenty of emotion and intrigue. Borgman's adherence to the mystery aspect of the case while making Girl in the Picture aids in this as well, as it is filled with extreme twists and turns.
Although the story of 'Tony Hughes' began to be inspected in the 90s, her true identity wasn't found out until 2014, making Girl in the Picture a depiction of a relatively recent and unknown true-crime case. For that reason, the documentary's contents are surprising and all the more moving. Similar to Abducted in Plain Sight, it's best to go into watching Girl in the Picture with no prior knowledge to properly understand the shock of those involved. Still, even true crime junkies who are familiar with the story at the center of the documentary can find something new and notable while watching.
Girl in the Picture begins streaming on Netflix on July 6th.