‘Allen v. Farrow’ review: Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s story becomes an HBO


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Directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (“The Hunting Ground”) draw upon a rich trove of material — some previously unheard and unseen — including recorded conversations between Allen and Farrow, court documents and home movies. Allen’s version of events is largely culled from the audiobook reading of his 2020 autobiography “Apropos of Nothing,” as well as old interviews.
The conversation surrounding Allen — and how he is viewed in the entertainment industry — has evolved, as the series notes, in part due to a cultural shift related to what has come to be known as the #MeToo movement. Those changes were spurred by the work of journalists such as Dylan’s brother, Ronan Farrow, who is among those interviewed.

Allen has staunchly denied that he ever abused Dylan, a disclaimer affixed to each chapter. “Allen v. Farrow” methodically explores the case against him while presenting various facets of the story, including admiration of Allen as a cinematic genius, Farrow’s personal and acting history, and their unorthodox relationship before its abrupt end.

There’s little doubt where the filmmakers’ sympathies lie. The docuseries underscores how coverage at the time — focusing on Allen’s affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn — only told part of the story.

Dylan was seven when the alleged assault happened in 1992, and “Allen v. Farrow” exposes the bruising legal and public-relations battle that ensued — including the bare-knuckled tactics the normally press-shy Allen and those working on his behalf employed.

Allen’s contention was, and remains, that the “scorned” Farrow coached or cajoled Dylan to level accusations against him — referred to as “parental alienation” in psychiatric terms — as retaliation for his betrayal with Soon-Yi. Dylan, meanwhile, discusses finding the resolve to speak publicly, from her essay asking how the world could continue celebrating Allen to saying, “I’m tired of not being believed.”

In addition to interviews that contradict aspects of Allen’s account, Dick and Ziering perhaps most effectively capture the way Hollywood continued to revere him after the allegation surfaced. Clips show high-profile talent defending him or insisting it wasn’t their business, combined with adulatory displays at the 2002 Oscars and 2014 Golden Globes. (A number of actors have since expressed regret about working with the director or said they wouldn’t do so again.)
Adding context to that, the project cites other examples of entertainment figures that have faced sexual-assault allegations, including director Roman Polanski, who fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, and who, like Allen, kept steadily working in the years since.

Arguably, the most illuminating section details a 1993 hearing in which Allen sought custody of his and Farrow’s three children. The judge issued a damning ruling against him, writing that Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was “grossly inappropriate.”

Allen declined to be interviewed…

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