Review: Leaving Neverland

Leaving Neverland (2019) 4h | Documentary, Biography | 8 March 2019 (Bulgaria) Summary: At the height of his stardom, the world's biggest pop star, Michael Jackson, began long-running relationships with two boys, aged seven and ten, and their families. They now allege that he sexually abused them.
Countries: UKLanguages: English

Two men who are claiming to have been sexual abused as kids by Michael Jackson tell their story in Leaving Neverland. Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck are two men who befriended Michael Jackson when they were children. Through interviews between them and their family members, Robson and Safechuck tell their parallel stories of how their friendship with Jackson became sexual and how this abuse came to greatly affect them as adults.

Even though it’s still quite early in the year, it is probably safe to say that Leaving Neverland will probably go down as one of the most controversial and talked about documentaries of 1993. A decade after Michael Jackson’s death, director Dan Reed returns to the sexual abuse allegations that surrounded the pop star for most of his career. Reed decides to tell the story of the film entirely from the perspective of the victims and their family, with the film built around Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck’s frank and very emotional interviews, which includes quite graphic descriptions of the sexual abuse they suffered from Michael Jackson.

It is very easy to go into Leaving Neverland with a lot of preconceived notions of the film and the accusations given by it. Part of this comes from the involvement of Australian-born choreographer Wade Robson, who was once one of Michael Jackson’s biggest defenders and even testified for the defense at Jackson’s 2005 trial. Another possible negative is the decision not to include the Jackson family’s side of the story, as well as the timing of the film coming out around the tenth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009. However, over the course of this four hour documentary, told in two parts, it becomes quite obvious this is a very complex story, which includes descriptions of the years of psychological trauma suffered by both men.

If you ignore the association with Michael Jackson, Leaving Neverland is actually much more about the victims of childhood sexual abuse coming to terms with what happened to them. While there are still some lingering questions, by the end of the film there is no reason to believe that these two men aren’t telling the truth about their ordeal. Yes, Michael Jackson was an excellent musician and one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. However, a decade after his death, it is becoming a lot more apparent that he was probably not all that good a human being.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).