What Jennifer Did (2024) Movie Review – A fascinating but flawed documentary about revenge and murder

A fascinating but flawed documentary about revenge and murder

On November 8, 2010, a 24-year-old woman named Jennifer Pan called 911 and told the police a trio of gunmen had entered her home in Markham, Ontario. 

When the police arrived, Jennifer was unscathed but her parents Bich and Huai had both been shot. Bich, Jennifer’s mother, did not survive the gunshot wounds but her father, Huai, was still clinging to his life. 

Initially, the case was treated like a home invasion. But it wasn’t long before the police started to suspect Jennifer’s involvement in the crime. During the investigation, the truth about her complicity was revealed, with revelations that were both bewildering and shocking.

Jennifer’s story is the subject of What Jennifer Did, a new documentary streaming on Netflix. For the most part, it’s a gripping watch, more so because of the interrogation footage featuring the police interviews with Jennifer. At first, we see her going along with her original story, denying her part in the attack on her parents. But over time, we see her visibly crumble as the police get closer to the truth.

Why did Jennifer want her parents dead? This is something we aren’t going to delve too deeply into, as most of the answers can be found in the documentary. However, some noticeable gaps in the doc really should have been filled.

We find out why she wanted to kill her parents, for example, but we don’t get to learn much about her mental state. One police officer refers to Jennifer as being “evil” but as far as we know, she wasn’t possessed by something monstrous.

Yes, her decision to hire men to murder her parents was a cold and calculated one but what drove her to do it? We know her parents pushed her academically and restricted her from having much of a social life. We also know they tried to put an end to her relationship with a guy named Daniel Wong, who they didn’t approve of. 

But is this enough to make somebody want to kill their parents? It’s something we might imagine doing when faced with our parent’s harsh rules, but to actually go ahead and do it? There has to be something more than just resentment as a motive, right?

In Jennifer’s case, perhaps not. Regardless, more information about her upbringing would have been helpful to give us further insight into the relationship she had with her parents. We know they were tough on her, perhaps overly so, but the effect this had on her mental health may have given us a more balanced consideration of Jennifer as a person. 

I would have liked more examination on the way the police interrogated Jennifer too. We learn from one police interviewee that it’s okay for the police to lie in Canada. Admittedly, police all over the world probably lie to get the information they want. But seeing this on screen throws up an obvious question: If the police want Jennifer to tell the truth, shouldn’t they be truthful themselves?

In one scene, Jennifer is tricked into telling a ‘truth expert’ what they want to know. It’s uncomfortable to watch, even though Jennifer is far from being an innocent herself. There isn’t room in the documentary to explore the morally dubious techniques the police use but a separate doc exploring these would be both interesting and damning.

The only interviews we get with Jennifer are from the pre-recorded interrogation footage. We also see police interviews with Daniel Wong, Jennifer’s former boyfriend, who was complicit in the crime. It’s easy to feel sorry for him as there’s the sense that Jennifer dragged him into her scheme, though considering the nature of the crime that unfolded, we shouldn’t have too much sympathy for the guy. 

We don’t get to hear much about the people Jennifer hired to kill her parents. This is a shame as more information on their backgrounds could have given us better insights into their reasons for helping her. Admittedly, the documentary is primarily focused on Jennifer (the title of the doc gives that away), but as she didn’t act alone, interview footage of the other accused may have been informative. 

Despite my criticisms, What Jennifer Did remains a gripping watch because of the extensive interview footage with Jennifer. She speaks one lie after the other, which makes for compelling viewing as we know she is going to get caught out eventually. She leaves as many gaps in her story as Jenny Popplewell makes in her doc, but that doesn’t make the finished product any less fascinating.

 

Read More: Where is Daniel Wong now?


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  • Verdict - 7/10
    7/10
7/10

2 thoughts on “What Jennifer Did (2024) Movie Review – A fascinating but flawed documentary about revenge and murder”

  1. Hey Vicci, thanks for commenting on my review. I have to agree with you. Jennifer clearly isn’t innocent but I didn’t like the way her interrogation was handled either.

  2. I cringed at the detectives techniques. Obviously this girl wasn’t well. Not an excuse, but I’m left feeling more shocked about the detectives than Jeniffer.

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