LEAVING NEVERLAND review. Directed by Dan Reed. Showmax.
MEGAN FURNISS reviews
Last week I relented. I had decided I wasn’t going to watch Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary that, to my mind, conclusively reveals Michael Jackson as a paedophile. It felt like I would be buying into the hype – more airing of dead and famous laundry in order to squeeze a further few dollars from the story. Also, while I was an appreciator of Michael Jackson, I was never a fan, and it seemed totally obvious to me that he was unstable, mentally and emotionally sick, and a paedophile.
I cashed in my morally superior attitude for a bit of crash and burn curiosity and was totally taken by surprise. In fact, I found Leaving Neverland to be a hauntingly moving and a deeply emotional journey that is still sitting with me a week later.
Director Dan Reed had an enormously challenging task. He had to choose both how and what to show in this long, two-part revealing of Michael Jackson as a repeat sexual abuser. He had to do it in a way that made the stories we hook into believable and human. I think that he did this in a decidedly un-American way, devoid of an eye-for-an-eye revenge narrative, focussed on the hearts of the boys Michael Jackson broke.
Jimmy Safechuck and Wade Robson are the protagonists here. Their stories are told from an adult perspective, looking back at what happened to them. And these stories are hauntingly similar, making them all the more credible, and heart breaking.
The media hype about Leaving Neverland sold it as being controversial, calling the accusations ‘alleged’ and making it seem like it was going to be presenting proof. Instead it is a heartfelt post mortem of fragile lives wrecked as Jimmy, Wade and their families take steps to acknowledge and then unpack what happened to them.
Threads are pulled together and then Michael Jackson weaves the threads into his web, carefully choosing and then grooming the boys and their families in a slow but masterful manipulation that leaves them confused and unsettled enough to make terrible choices. It is shattering to watch.
Pushed likes dominoes
Yes, it is idiotic to imagine a mother allowing her seven-year-old child to sleep in the same bed as a grown man, but for me it is clear that Jackson’s actions were incisive and deliberate and these unstable family members, already tilted, were pushed like dominoes for all sorts of reasons.
Ultimately, the part that got me, and had me in tears, was how in love with Michael Jackson these two boys were. Young children with inappropriate romantic love for the man that abused them. More than the pain and brokenness of their child bodies is the devastation of their hearts as they outgrew their abusers’ needs and he abandoned and rejected them.
Leaving Neverland is aching, complicated documentary making, and I found it compelling and so, so sad.
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