This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Isobel Frances Ha’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Like Serial, 10 years before Serial. This is an interesting film and I think they got very lucky to have all this personal footage (although it is totally weird that someone filmed all of this). The main thing that makes me not want to score it higher is the v dodgy ground of "unbiased"-ness. Even Serial, which I enjoyed like everyone else, struggled with this. But that truly was a mystery. This is a story with living victims giving testimony which I found no good reason for them to lie about and the film didn't honestly make a good enough case for me to disbelieve them. We know that the guy WAS a peadophile (by his own admission to multiple people and in writing) and plenty of child pornography was found in the house. Sure the lack of physical evidence is questionable and like in Serial, it's shocking to see how incompetent the police can be at gathering the evidence they need and that can lead to them getting things wrong.
However, to me this seemed a lot more of a character study on fragile masculinity, the way these men banded together (against their mother, largely) was fascinating to watch and their lack of self awareness (the whole "nice guy" narrative around Jesse despite the fact I was not seeing that in him at all, in fact he seemed like a 4chan type creep). I felt very sorry for their mother (though she could have possibly opened her eyes a bit more when she told us she knew what her husband was into and he had confessed previous incidents to her. I struggle to understand why she let him teach children at all, and why she was never concerned for her own kids, who it seems to me may have been victims, certainly I think Jesse having been abused seems highly likely, his behaviour and attitude to his father being so odd). I was glad to see she has moved on in her life from a husband and kids who basically emotionally abused her.
After doing some reading I feel a bit skeptical about the "impartiality" of this doc but the way it was done was very interesting, and reminded me of The Stories We Tell. It's an interesting look at how we create narratives for ourselves and our lives, regardless of the "truth", whatever that is; and also how the use of video and photographs an help us form those narratives (at one point someone says something along the lines of, "when you have a photograph, do you remember the moment or the picture hanging on the wall?"). It was less good as a crime doc, because I didn't feel like there was much to be said about the crime, and as others have pointed out, a lot of evidence was omitted from the film.