“In the last 20 years he was able to run amok while I was growing up. I was coping with this through sleepless nights and panic attacks, because of one man.”
So says Dylan Farrow, 35, as she reflects on alleged devastating incidents from 1992.
“No matter what you think you know, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
4 part HBO documentary Allen v Farrow is a gob-smacking account of allegations levelled against celebrated filmmaker Woody Allen. To be clear, this review encompasses all 4 episodes, which will be calamitous to his career and legacy.
Investigative filmmakers Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering and Amy Herdy -whose previous work garnered two Oscar nominations, an Emmy and a Peabody- centre their narrative around Dylan Farrow speaking out as an adult, largely after decades of silence (she wrote a damning essay in 2014).
Mia Farrow, Allen’s partner of 12 years, alleged abuse when he supposedly took 7 year old Dylan to an attic, supported by similar ‘strange behaviour’ claims witnessed by the couple’s babysitter. After Farrow consulted a doctor, the allegations were reported to police.
What followed was a media storm with Allen claiming Farrow was a woman scorned, because he was romantically involved with Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. He claimed Dylan had been coached.
Police investigations followed but Allen was never charged -the doco will dissect both New York & Connecticut cases that enveloped the allegations.
Speaking on the record along with Dylan is Mia Farrow, who agrees to speak out in support of her daughter. She says the great regret of her life was not being perceptive enough.
“It’s my fault. I brought this guy into our family. There’s nothing I can do to take that away,” Mia reveals.
“Who on earth could believe that of Woody Allen? I couldn’t believe it.”
Also speaking is journalist Ronan Farrow (who famously co-authored the expose on Harvey Weinstein), brother Matthew, family friends, staff, film critics, Andre Previn (Farrow’s former husband), Carly Simon, Gloria Steinem, medical, social and legal experts plus original state prosecutors.
Allen did not participate and is only heard via grabs from his 2020 audio book ‘Apropos of Nothing’. Farrow’s son Moses, one of 3 kids legally adopted by Allen, turned on his father as a teen, but later retracted it. He has since published a lengthy defence of Allen you can read here.
While Mia Farrow has been repeatedly accused of a smear campaign against Allen, the documentary specifically addresses claims by Moses that the incidents could not have happened.
The evidence and accounts build a damning case against Allen, not just in his private life, but even to recurring themes in his work. This includes access to original script drafts and notes by Allen, which are insightful if circumstantial.
There are of taped phone calls, home videos -including an account from 7 year old Dylan- audio from other siblings. Underpinning much is Allen’s power as a successful New York filmmaker and all the influence and wealth he wielded.
Without Allen’s participation this is clearly a one-sided argument, but one that is so compelling as to be overwhelming. Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering and Amy Herdy have uncovered meticulous evidence for the prosecution, in a case that never made it to court, save for a separate custody battle.
But frankly, in one corner is a man who fell in love with his partner’s daughter (including taking ‘erotic’ photos of her) versus a woman who mothered 14 children, 10 of whom were adopted from countries including South Korea, Vietnam and India. Mia is already starting from a position of virtue….
So what does this all mean to an audience? Justice denied. Yes. Dangers of sexual assault. Yes. Abuse of trust. Absolutely.
But there is also the difficult question of whether the art of Woody Allen can be separated from the man. Or whether it should be. That’s a personal choice for each viewer.
In an era of Weinstein, Jackson, Cosby and others, Woody Allen’s film legacy may be about to come undone by film itself. But not one where he has control.
Allen v Farrow is now screening on FOX Showcase / Binge.