Unbelievable

You know the saying that the truth is always worse than anything we could imagine or come up with. Well, this Netflix limited series is an example of that. It is based on a true story which first surfaced in a Pulitzer Prize winning article in 2015 penned by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong and published by ProPublica and The Marshal Project. It was the harrowing tale of an 18-year-old young woman who was raped in her own home by a masked intruder. As if that violation wasn’t shattering enough; she was retraumatized by the investigating detectives, who did not believe her story. Obviously this is not a light watch, but a very important one.

Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever – Booksmart, Beautiful Boy) is an 18-year-old who lives in the state of Washington. She lives alone in an apartment complex made up of people who have undergone trauma in their lives. One night a masked intruder breaks in, bounds and gags her, threatens to shoot her if she makes any noise and rapes her.

Afterwards when she goes to the police, the two detectives assigned to the case do not believe her based on what they deem inconsistencies with her story. Thinking Marie is lying rather than traumatized. Even her former foster mothers think there are strange things with her reaction and story. As such, Marie withdraws her story and subsequently is charged with false reporting. Her life, as if it wasn’t bad enough, begins to really unravel. She loses all her friends, quits her job and has to get a lawyer to defend her against the charge.

In Colorado, two female detectives, who are working on different rape cases, begin to work together as they think they are looking for the same man. Detective Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever – Signs, Michael Clayton) and Detective Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette – Little Miss Sunshine, About a Boy) believe they are dealing with a serial rapist and combine their efforts to stop him.

From the very first scenes I was completely drawn in. It is that compelling a story which was well told and acted. It stays that way through the entire roughly eight hours of the limited series. Totally something worthy, if your heart and mind can take it, of binge watching.

First, you care about the characters. Both the victims of the serial rapist, especially Marie, and the two detectives. Second, the dialogue, often happening at a quiet and realistic pace, is riveting. You hang on to every word. Third, hand in hand with the dialogue, is the exceptional acting by all, but especially Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever. Dever carries a really heavy load and does it so well. Alternating between vulnerable, strong, young, mature, damaged, and confused, she brings that all to Marie and more. As for Collette and Wever, they play off each other so well. Wever is intelligent and Collette is strong. Great combo!

This is a subject which is so important and has rarely been done well. Usually trivialized or just fodder for titillation, rape is never easy…or handled very well by the police. It realistically depicts how women are often revictimized by the police and justice system after already having to endure the unthinkable. It is a series which breaks your heart and while watching you are never “comfortable”. Tough to watch – often.

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