Arts, Movies, Review

‘Allen v. Farrow’ Exposes Woody Allen’s Dark Past


There’s no denying that Woody Allen is a cinematic figurehead. Considered by many to be one of entertainment’s most prominent triple threats, he has written, directed, and starred in over 70 films in the last six decades, cultivating a niche, neurotic, New York sense of humor that has inspired generations of filmmakers after him. 

When you hear the name Woody Allen, you might think of sharp wit, excruciatingly self-aware writing, and a small, anxious, anti-leading man full of insecurity and cultural genius. You also, however, can’t help but think of a man that married his then 21-year-old stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn and stands accused of years of sexual abuse against his own child and other minors. The name Woody Allen, despite its legendary status, has slowly become synonymous with first-rate perversion and a gross abuse of power. HBO’s new docuseries, Allen v. Farrow, uses first-hand interviews and unseen home videos to examine how such a beloved figure could be capable of such vile things.

Stories of Allen’s fixation with minors have peppered the media for years. Dylan Farrow, his adopted daughter and alleged victim, first accused Allen of sexual abuse in August of 1992 when she was 7 years old. It was around the same time that Allen was discovered to have engaged in an “affair” with Previn after naked polaroids of the young woman were found in his personal belongings by his then-girlfriend and Previn’s mother, actress Mia Farrow.

Despite the sensational and salacious nature of these events, Allen somehow avoided significant backlash for these claims and continued making films for many years unscathed. It was not until the mobilization of the #MeToo movement that his past actions began to be heavily scrutinized by the media and his fanbase. In the years following, an increasing suspicion began to build around the question of Allen’s guilt, with many celebrities and past collaborators either supporting or separating themselves from Allen’s dwindling reputation. That brings us to Allen v. Farrow, an exposé on the disgusting truth and details of Allen’s alleged abuse.

To put it bluntly, it’s stomach-curdling. The first episode opens with Dylan describing her seemingly idyllic childhood with Mia and Allen, full of movie sets and siblings galore, but it slowly shifts into a sickening tale of pedophilia as she recounts her abuse at the hands of Allen with vivid detail. Like other documentaries designed to expose the corrupt nature of public figures, interviews with witnesses and sources close to the victim follow. 

Dylan’s mother Mia and her brother Ronan Farrow, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who reported on the #MeToo movement, are given ample amounts of screentime. They discuss the strange nature of Allen’s fascination with the toddler-aged Dylan and the subsequent effects it had on her emotional well-being. 

It’s a little jarring to see such famous people speaking so frankly about an arguably even more famous person in a documentary format, but it ultimately goes to show the extent to which power protects perpetrators of sexual violence. Despite both Mia and Ronan’s relations to Allen, they have continued to defend Dylan, even when her statements have been publicly scrutinized.

At its core, Allen v. Farrow is a story about the forgotten victims of notable abusers. It is meant to uncover not only the difficulty of sexual trauma itself, but also the issues victims face in being believed at all. The explosive nature of Allen v. Farrow allows for a captivating narrative, and given the story’s high-profile subjects and sensitive nature, in the coming weeks it is likely for the series to gain more traction. 

This is a story that has begged to be told and heard for many years in Hollywood. Now, it’s finally getting the audience it deserves. Allen might have been able to live without facing the music of his past, but by the time audiences finish watching the Allen v. Farrow docuseries, I doubt that will be the case much longer.

Photo Courtesy of HBO Max

March 1, 2021