Content warning: The following article mentions child abuse and molestation.
Thirty years ago, the name Dylan Farrow was launched into the international spotlight after rumors arose that beloved director Woody Allen sexually abused her. Dylan was seven years old at the time, and the daughter of actress Mia Farrow, Allen’s longtime girlfriend.
What followed was a media frenzy of unpredictable proportions, a large-scale police investigation and a bitter custody battle between Allen and Farrow. Farrow accused Allen of sexually assaulting her daughter and, to refute this accusation, Allen accused Farrow of parental manipulation. He claimed Farrow created false allegations and coached Dylan to get back at him for having an affair with her other daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.
Despite the serious claims, Allen recovered from the allegations and rebounded in the public eye almost instantly. He continued to make Oscar Award-winning films and maintained a stable presence at award shows and on talk shows.
When the #MeToo movement first broke the internet, Allen’s name and Dylan’s story began to circulate once again. However, for many years, her story never received the attention it deserved. “Allen v. Farrow,” a new HBO docuseries that premiered on Feb. 21, details Allen’s horrific actions and aims to give Mia, Dylan and the rest of the Farrow family the attention they deserve.
“Allen v. Farrow” gives an adult Dylan a platform to speak about the abuse she endured over the last 30 years. The docuseries is an incredibly well-executed investigation into the lives of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. It is a must-watch for anyone, regardless of whether you’ve seen “Annie Hall” or “Rosemary’s Baby.”
The series begins by dissecting Allen and Farrow’s strange relationship, along with Allen’s role as a father figure to the Farrow children.
Interviews conducted with family members and friends paint Allen and Dylan’s father-daughter relationship as disgusting and emotionally abusive. Dylan often claimed that she would hide from Allen because she did not want to be around him, even before the sexual abuse allegations were made.
Later, however, the story tragically intensifies when a traumatized 7-year-old Dylan Farrow tells her mother that Woody Allen had molested her.
A heartbreaking conversation between the two was captured on video by Farrow. For the first time, this video has been released to the public.
The video shows Dylan the day after Allen had visited saying that, “he [Allen] touched [my] privates.” The five minutes in which the recording is played is the most difficult part of the series to sit through. It features a devastated Dylan looking angry and heartbroken as she recounts to her mother the unforgivable act she alleges Allen committed. It’s gut-wrenching to listen to her voice break as she discusses how a man she viewed as her father violated her in ways no person, let alone a seven-year-old, should be violated.
This video became infamous in the press after Allen accused Farrow of coaching Dylan in the short clip. However, the docuseries has child psychologists debunk these claims, and even without experts asserting the video’s authenticity, it is obvious Dylan was not coached. No child is that talented of an actress, and no one can fake that level of pain.
The docuseries goes beyond the newspaper headlines and talk show interviews to unveil previously sealed court documents from child abuse experts, psychologists and therapists to aid in their investigation. It also scours through old home movies and interviews from family, friends and almost everyone remotely connected to the story.
Copious amounts of evidence were analyzed by the “Allen v. Farrow” team and used to debunk popular myths supporting Allen’s innocence and claims of Farrow’s manipulation. The docuseries does an incredible job of dissecting the now-infamous report by the Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Child Sexual Abuse Clinic on Dylan.
The report claimed there was no evidence of abuse toward Dylan and that she was inconsistent and changed her story. However, an investigation by “Allen v. Farrow” divulges information to undermine the report’s credibility, like how one of the lead team members at the clinic believed Dylan, a narrative that counters the report’s claims that she was unreliable.
As well as proving the clinics report to be unreliable, “Allen v. Farrow” also makes it known that the Connecticut state police found probable cause to arrest Allen but chose not to because Frank Maco, the Connecticut state attorney, believed “Dylan was too fragile to face a celebrity trial.”
“Allen v. Farrow” rebukes Woody Allen’s claims of innocence and builds a case against one of the most prolific Hollywood figures of the late twentieth century.
The show’s investigation is compelling in its own right, but combining it with incredible filming and creative choices elevates the emotional impact of Dylan’s story. The use of happy home videos of the family’s seemingly idyllic life set to melancholic music evokes intense and extraordinary feelings of sorrow. And the seamless weaving between Mia Farrow’s home videos and recent interviews of the family craft a tale of misery, agony and betrayal.
Although the docuseries has been well-received by many, it has faced its share of criticism. Many take issue with the fact that the producers did not interview Allen, Soon-Yi or any of his supporters. These critics, however, fail to take into account that, “Allen v. Farrow” did reach out to the aforementioned parties but did not receive a response. Although they did not get his direct testimony, they use Allen’s own words from his 2020 memoir, “Apropos of Nothing” to tell his side of the story.
Those who call for the inclusion of Allen’s testimony fail to recognize the purpose of the docuseries. In a series focused on elevating Dylan Farrow’s voice, a voice that has been pushed aside and criticized for years, it is not necessary to give her alleged abuser an equal spotlight.
The docuseries is Dylan’s chance to let her voice be heard and set the record straight. And “Allen v. Farrow” allows Dylan to rewrite the story that has excluded her voice for too long and finally reclaim her narrative.