Allen v. Farrow, an explosive four-part documentary that premiered this weekend on HBO, takes a fresh look at the shocking, headline-making child abuse allegations against Woody Allen. The 1990s tabloid scandal rocked Hollywood, when the New York filmmaker separated from his partner and muse Mia Farrow.
The former couple adopted Dylan Farrow together and shared three children, including Moses Farrow. Mia had seven children when she met Allen and gave birth to Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow. The Pulitzer-winning journalist, Ronan Farrow, whose work sparked the #MeToo movement, also bears witness to support his sister’s accusations. Each episode of the documentary examines the past via family home movies, telephone calls, archival footage, clips and Woody Allen’s audiobook commentary from “Apropos of Nothing”.
The 76-year-old actress was mother to Matthew Previn, Lark Song Previn, Fletcher Previn, Daisy Previn, Soon-Yi Previn and Moses Farrow when she met now 85-year-old Allen. Their relationship ended infamously, when Mia Farrow found nude Polaroid photos of her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, which were taken by Allen. In 1992, Soon-Yi was a college student, when Allen confessed that he was in love with his partner’s daughter. Soon-Yi was reportedly a 20 year old when their affair began in 1991.
Woody Allen was in his mid-50s, but there are suggestions in this film that their romance may have begun when she was much younger. He has famously said about the affair in Time Magazine, “The heart wants what it wants, there’s no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that.” Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn got married in 1997.
How Allen v. Farrow breaks down the Woody Allen allegations
Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have a reputation for tackling hard-hitting exposes about sexual abuse. Their documentary, On The Record, included several accusers speaking out against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Meanwhile, their Oscar-nominated film, The Hunting Ground, exposed misconduct on college campuses.
Allen v. Farrow allows now 35-year-old Dylan Farrow to share her perspective on what happened to her over 20 years ago. Home movies filmed by Mia show Woody’s role as a doting father figure to her large family of adopted children. Dylan initially broke her silence years ago in a New York Times op-ed, when she accused her father of molesting her in the family attic when she was seven years old.
The audience is shown grainy VHS video footage of seven-year-old Dylan, giving stark details about what she believes happened to her in 1992. The child is steadfast and unwavering in making her point: that her daddy did things to her that hurt and made her feel bad. Allen has always proclaimed his innocence and declared that Dylan was coached by her mother after their relationship fell apart. The controversial custody battle is now re-examined in the court of public opinion. We are transported back to the ’90s to witness the media circus that included frenzied press conferences, paparazzi, magazine headlines, and legal court proceedings.
Family friends Carly Simon and Gloria Steinem chime in to share their views on what happened to the once tight-knight family. They want everyone to know that Farrow was not prepared to fight against the powerhouses who ran Woody’s media conglomerate. The film series also makes the case that the accusations against him weren’t thoroughly examined due to his celebrity status.
Mostly female film critics provide further insight on the unsettling themes of Allen’s films, like Manhattan, which often featured an older man in love with a barely pubescent teenage girl. Allen played a 42-year-old man in love with a 16-year-old girl played by Mariel Hemingway in the film, which has been hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. The role earned Hemingway her first Oscar nomination, but the real-life muse who inspired the role tells an unsettling tale about abusive relationships that led to her seeking professional help.
The filmmakers include tense phone conversations with Woody and Mia during their breakup as well. The battle between the pair escalated after Woody sought custody of their three children during their separation. Dylan’s younger sister, Kaeli-Sha, referred to Woody Allen as the Harry Potter villain, Voldemort, to explain his role in their family. In her sit-down interview, she wanted to make it clear that, after Woody left, no one mentioned him. Teachers and tutors provide additional testimony to shed light on the unhealthy attachment Woody had to his young daughter. Many gave first hand accounts through interviews and archival footage, explaining how Allen would isolate her from other children and appeared to stalk her at school.
This series will undoubtedly tarnish the reputation and legacy of the once-revered auteur director. Film critic Miriam Bale details in the film why she wrote an op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter titled “Why I Would Never Watch a Woody Allen Film Again.” She received backlash for declaring her disdain for all art created by the famed director to the world.
“I used to say I was a Woody Allen fan; now I’m done with him,” she wrote.
I can’t dispute this position after viewing a four-hour deep dive into the incestuous molestation scandal. All I can say is that I wholeheartedly agree with her statement, and you will too.
Allen v. Farrow is currently available on HBO and HBO Max.