I’ve admired the vast canon of work by Woody Allen my entire life. I fell in love with New York, without ever visiting it, because of Manhattan. To me, Annie Hall is the quintessential rom-com, while Vicky Christina Barcelona was the perfect embodiment of the triad of female personas I was aspiring to be as a young film student. Safe to say that because of this Allen v. Farrow has taken me by surprise.
What does it entail
If, like me, you’ve been kind of ignorant of what this story and its allegations are all about – let me break it down for you very briefly. In the wake of the release of Annie Hall, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow (remember her from Rosemary’s Baby?) met in New York and became romantically involved.
Farrow, who always wanted a big family and already had seven children (biological and adopted) from a previous marriage entered into the relationship with the understanding that Allen did not really have an interest in the kids. Allen, having then spent time with the kids, changed his mind and adopted a little girl, Dylan, with Farrow whereafter he also fathered a child with her, Ronan, and adopted Moses, another child that she adopted.
Allen then formed an unnaturally intense relationship with Dylan, then between the ages of three and seven. Farrow addressed the nature of the relationship with him and Allen started to go to therapy. The relationship between Farrow and Allen started to deteriorate when she found naked pictures of one of her eldest daughters, Soon-Yi, in Allen’s apartment. At this point, Allen had started a full-blown relationship with Soon-Yi.
The craziness does not stop there, with Dylan (seven years old at this point) then accusing Allen of sexually assaulting her in their Connecticut summer home. The bulk of the documentary is then spent on these allegations and the years of disruption it caused with Farrow’s family. The story has divided the media since the start, causing Allen to spend a few years in Europe, actively avoiding the New York scene. His son, Ronan Farrow, went on to write the big Harvey Weinstein expose, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.
So, is the documentary worth the watch? I’ve been at odds with myself since watching the first two episodes as a sneak-peek. For years I’ve heard whispers of the Woody Allen controversy, but have never spent the time really investigating what had happened way back in 1991. I always just assumed that the scandal revolved around his marriage to Soon-Yi.
The extent of the situation, I have come to realise, is way beyond just that. The documentary has left me with a feeling similar to the one you get at the end of Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer – a sense of dread worsened by the examination of your own complicity. As an avid Woody Allen fan – his movie posters still adorn my walls – I’m now having to investigate my own obsession with his work and what it represents amid my ignorance.
It is also very true that the accusations are now being viewed from a much larger lens than in the early 1990s. The LA Times probably states it best; “The #MeToo movement has shifted the power dynamics of Hollywood, and changed the perceptions of the American public regarding the role of women on and off-screen. But more than that, it’s flipped the script on who is believed in “he said, she said” cases, making Allen and Farrow’s case the perfect candidate for reconsideration under a more modern cultural lens.”
The documentary does its best to stay objective, but without interviews from Allen and Soon-Yi, it tells a very one-sided story with the emphasis being placed on the manipulative response from Allen following Dylan’s initial accusation, and what Farrow perceived as the manipulation of his relationship with Soon-Yi.
Outspoken Allen fans disregard the documentary as just another by-product of “cancel culture” and Farrow’s bitterness about a scorned relationship. “But the truth underlying their emotional, often highly personal defenses of Allen is that he’s become subject to the forces of change that have finally begun to challenge the old world order, when a girl’s place was tantalizing Allen or other actors on screen, no matter how nerdy or neurotic those men might be, or how young the woman”, states the LA Times.
Allen v Farrow releases on Showmax today where you can binge the entire HBO documentary series.
Looking for more documentary hits on Showmax? Try Parow to Parowfest