You’ve probably heard of this documentary, if you haven’t, you probably live under a rock. Leaving Neverland is the controversial two-part documentary focusing on Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two men who allege that they were sexually abused by the late Michael Jackson. This documentary focuses on their story, which has consequently brought into questions about Jackson and it has led to a significant reassessment of his overall legacy.
The allegations at hand are disturbing and deeply unsettling, and I credit Director Dan Reed for handling this is a sensitive, empathetic manner that does a good job of not taking these accusations as gospel. Although it is clear from the off that Leaving Neverland is clearly indicating that these stories are most likely to be true, it doesn’t come across as too biased and it does bring to light certain aspects of this topic which balances it out a bit and will undoubtedly make some people question the credibility of the statements of these two men.
I’m sure the subject matter could be discussed at length for hours, but I’m not going to delve into that, but let’s look at how Leaving Neverland holds up as a documentary. The answer is, pretty well. Despite the documentary taking on a very simple format, interviews inter spliced with archival footage, for the entirety of it’s lengthy four hour runtime, (when you put both parts together) it’s incredibly engaging and you’ll be glued to your seat, regardless of the rather “boring” style it adopts visually.
Leaving Neverland studies the entire family of both men, and is an intense look at how Jackson impacted them all, not just the alleged abused. Hearing about how these ordinary families became a constant presence in Jackson’s life, and vice-versa, is incredibly interesting, and you can’t help but get sucked into it all. You do feel like you know this families while you’re watching, because they feel quite relatable and you realise that they aren’t particularly out of the ordinary, they’re working class like all of us, and that realisation that this could easily have been any family, whether that be your own or somebody you knows, makes this documentary all the more disturbing as it delves into the dark details. These were not famous people, these were people who found themselves in a million-to-one odds situation and found themselves heavily involved with arguably one of the most famous music stars of all time, I found this aspect of the story in the documentary just as captivating and interesting as the main focus, which was, of course, the abuse.
In terms of the abuse, the documentary doesn’t hold back, and moments are explained in quite explicit detail, which is incredibly unsettling and disturbing and certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.
I’m a fan of Michael Jackson and his music, as I’m sure many other people are, which is where the controversy comes in to this documentary, it has upset a lot of people. Because at times, the testimonies are extremely damning, and as a fan, you of course don’t want this to be true, but there’s a part of you that feels like disregarding it is nothing more than sheer blind naivety. It completely tarnishes Jackson’s legacy and makes you question whether it’s morally wrong to still enjoy the music he bestowed upon the world. Equally, there’s a part of you that does wonder whether these testimonies can be viewed as wholly legitimate, something which the documentary itself does acknowledge, but then again, this is looking at the psychology of child sex abuse, something which I, thankfully, have never experienced and I couldn’t even comprehend or even begin to comprehend, so it’s hard for me to dispute the thought processes of these men who claim to have been abused. The biggest argument of course, right now, is the money that one can receive for a claim of this nature, something which Jackson supporters and other skeptics have rightfully brought up, as it does raise some interesting arguments.
I’ve waffled a bit there, but I’m not going to edit it because I think it’s a fitting metaphor for the feelings you’ll feel watching this documentary, it’s a complete rollercoaster from start to finish and you’ll find yourself both conflicted and questioning everything. But this is the intention of the documentary, it wants you to be thinking about it for a long time to come, it wants you to question Jackson and his legacy, and it’s hard to dispute why it is doing so when you hear some of the stories in during the documentary. Equally, you can’t forget that this documentary is focusing on a dead man who can’t defend himself and was cleared of similar charges whilst he was alive. I don’t think there will ever be a right or wrong answer when considering your opinion of this documentary, and I doubt many will ever be able to make a final decision, I certainly can’t, I finished watching this a few days ago and I’ve still found myself thinking about it constantly, trying to reach a conclusion, a conclusion that I, like many others, may never reach.
As a documentary though, its extremely well made, interesting and engaging, it’s going to leave an impact. Give it a watch, make your own mind up, if you can! Let me know what you thought about Leaving Neverland, I’d be interested to see what your thoughts are.
I give Leaving Neverland an 8/10.