I'm One Episode Into 'Allen v. Farrow' And It's Already Horrifying

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of HBO

If you’re looking for another celebrity documentary to watch, you don’t want to miss “Allen v. Farrow.” Focusing on the relationship and publicly acrimonious split between director/writer Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow, this is a four part documentary. Public interest in the almost 30-year-old story came when Farrow’s daughter Dylan wrote about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of Allen. Allen and Farrow split in 1992 because of the abuse, but also because Allen began a relationship with Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn.

The entire documentary is largely from the perspective of Dylan and Mia. Ronan Farrow, Mia’s biological son with Allen, is a major secondary player, as are several family friends. In this first hour, we only hear from one of Farrow’s older children: the youngest of her three older biological sons, Fletcher. I don’t know if we’ll hear from any of Farrow’s older children in subsequent episodes, but I hope we do.

Unsurprisingly, Woody Allen wants nothing to do with the project. But that doesn’t mean “Allen v. Farrow” is devoid of his perspective. While they don’t question him directly, they have excerpts of his autobiography. The autobiography’s release was controversial — but Allen reads the audiobook. So you get to hear his words in his voice. The juxtaposition between what he writes in his book and what others have to say is really eye opening. In his mind, nothing about his relationship with Mia Farrow or their family is weird. But when you’re an outsider, the whole thing is questionable.

For the entirety of their relationship, Farrow and Allen lived in separate houses. If they were merely middle aged people on their third or fourth relationship, I wouldn’t find it strange. But they were basically raising a family together. As Farrow explains multiple times, Allen had no real interest in children. Many single mothers would see that as a deal breaker; I know I did when I was a single mom. But Farrow didn’t see any issue with it. She felt she could divide her time equally between her relationship and her children. But then slowly she began to integrate Allen more and more into the family structure. And even though he was more and more willing to be around Farrow’s children, Allen still never wanted to give up his life to be a father. Still, Farrow wanted to have a child with him. (I don’t understand why either.)

This is where things get really weird to me. Farrow chose to adopt. She asked Allen what it would take for him to be interested in a child. He told her if she wanted to adopt a “little blonde girl” that he might take more than a passing interest in her. That is weirdly specific, but she was willing to make that happen for him. Enter Dylan. Even though he specifically requested a child like her, Farrow adopted the little girl by herself. And even though Allen still maintained his separate life, he became obsessed with Dylan. To the point where it was beyond a caring parent/child relationship and it became downright creepy.

Courtesy of HBO

Globe Photos/mediapunch/Shutters

Listening to Dylan recount tales of how Woody Allen would behave around her makes me physically ill. But at the same time, I feel an immense rage surge through my body. I don’t think Allen’s intent was to sexually abuse her. But she was the perfect victim. When Ronan was born, Dylan was a toddler, and Allen would constantly take her away from Farrow, who he claimed only had attention for the infant. Which is total bullshit, because babies need their mothers. Of course Ronan took up a lot of her time, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have time for Dylan. Allen used this as a way to get into Dylan’s head. He would tell her that her mommy didn’t love her anymore, that she only loved the baby. It became easy to isolate her then.

From the way everyone explains it, Allen would monopolize all of Dylan’s time. That’s super fucking creepy, considering she was a toddler. I love little kids, but there’s no way I would want to spend more than maybe an hour just one on one with a three-year-old – and considering he wasn’t a family man to begin with, this is a huge fucking red flag. But Woody Allen only had eyes for this little girl. I’m sure he tried to justify it as being a doting father, but this is beyond that. This guy was taking her into his room and locking the door. He would isolate her from her siblings, especially Ronan — you know, his actual son.

“Allen v. Farrow” is full of old home movies and photos. It’s clear that Mia enjoyed documenting as much of her kids’ lives as possible. It was the early days of camcorders, which made home videos easier. You can see Allen’s fixation with Dylan clearly, especially in a video of the two of them in the backyard jungle gym. But beyond that, you can see how Allen’s abuse is affecting the little girl. It’s not verbal, but you can see it in her eyes. She’s a scared little girl, and her eyes are pleading for help. They are heartbreaking because she’s calling out for help, and yet, nothing. Even as the adults in her life begin to catch on that something isn’t right, it’s clear she still wasn’t safe.

Courtesy of HBO

Dylan (and multiple other adults) say that Allen would take her into a room and they’d lay in bed together in nothing but their underwear. But instead of calling him out and stopping it from the beginning, everyone closed their eyes. They just pretended that they weren’t seeing exactly what they were seeing. I’m sorry, there’s no other way to explain that. Farrow also recalls a time she walked by Allen’s room and he was in his underwear with Dylan’s head in his lap. I don’t know how she didn’t knock his head off right then and there. No way in hell should she have stayed quiet.

But she did. And that’s one of the hardest things to stomach about this whole thing. Mia Farrow was aware, however directly, that Woody Allen was having an inappropriate relationship with her daughter. She admits that she knew something was amiss, and yet she continued to let it happen. You can’t ignore that. And it wasn’t just her — other adults admit in the doc that they saw things and said nothing. Farrow explains that she pushed Allen to get therapy, but by then the damage was done.

Like many powerful men, Allen is a master gaslighter. So of course he turned the whole thing around on her. He made her think she was the problem, and how dare she question his relationship to the child she wanted him to help raise. Yes, he’s powerful, but so is she. It’s not like she was a nobody — she would have at least had the power to keep him away from Dylan. But instead, she invited him to continue. Despite everything she had seen, Farrow allowed Allen to co-adopt Dylan. She says that she wanted Dylan to have a dad, but no dad would be better than having an abusive one. By adopting Dylan, Allen was creating a surefire way of keeping a hold on the young girl no matter what.

The first episode of Allen v. Farrow ends with Mia Farrow finding naked pictures of her adoptive daughter Soon-Yi. She describes them as “Hustler” style, which means they’re likely pretty raunchy. In the final moments, Dylan expresses relief that she wasn’t the only one he took pictures of. It is unfair that this show is being released weekly, because it is not the type of thing that should be dragged out.

“Allen v. Farrow” airs on Sundays for the next three weeks on HBO.

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