Leaving Neverland – HBO Documentary Film Review


A Difficult & Controversial Film

Split across two parts and clocking in at around four hours, Leaving Neverland is an intimate portrait of the King of Pop, painted by two men who claim to have been abused by Michael Jackson when they were children. Armed with a collection of stock photos, face to face interviews and audio clippings, Leaving Neverland is a dark, difficult documentary film about a troubled man and his obsession with young children.

The first part begins slowly, introducing us to the two men who have come forward with these allegations; Wade Robson and James Safechuck. After discussing their family life, members of both men’s close family are interviewed and from here, discuss meeting Michael Jackson for the first time and his impact on their life. Through a mixture of face to face interviews and stock photographs, we learn the extent of Michael’s influence in their childhood as well as the beginnings of explicit sexual acts he allegedly conducted with them both.

If the first part has you sceptical, the second part is much more convincing, adding archival news footage, letters and audio to back up the claims made by the pair. This second part picks up where the first left off, this time adding archival news footage of the court trial and eventual verdict where he was found not guilty. While some of the material here is very shocking, especially one of the Mum’s reaction to Michael Jackson being found dead, the second part extends beyond Michael Jackson and looks closely at abuse and emotional trauma as a whole.

Whether you come away from this believing the two men or not, it’s hard to dispute Michael Jackson sleeping in bed with little boys is strange to say the least. The uncomfortable manner in which these two men recount their childhood experiences with Michael make for really difficult viewing too. The graphic detail in which they both discuss sexual relations with the pop star as well as their subtle (and not-so-subtle) mannerisms during these moments is certainly convincing as well.

Without going into too much detail, I’ve studied body language a little and some of the hand and eye movements are all telling signs and make me lean closer toward them telling the truth. Again, take from that what you will and this is likely to be a very controversial film nonetheless.

In many ways, Leaving Neverland feels like a hybrid of both Abducted In Plain Sight and Making A Murderer. The former is likely to spark many people questioning just why the adults went along with Michael spending so much time alone with their underage children. The latter is predictably going to echo the same cultural effect Making A Murderer had. Now, much like that documentary series there’s a particular one-sided slant to this and given MJ isn’t around to speak up about these allegations, it does make it a bit difficult to gauge both sides of the argument.

Leaving Neverland is one of those documentaries that will completely split public opinion and likely be deemed the most controversial film of the year. Whether it has the same cultural impact as Making A Murderer or Surviving R Kelly remains to be seen but there’s no denying this is a very difficult documentary to watch. Despite feeling a tad overlong and awash with numerous establishing shots that could have been edited out, Leaving Neverland is a must-watch documentary film asking a very difficult question – was Michael Jackson a child molester?

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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