Review: Netflix's Unbelievable

Katerina Vasilaki reviews Netflix's documentary Unbelievable

Katerina Vasilaki
10th February 2020
Image: IMDB

Unbelievable is a Netflix documentary series released in 2019, containing eight episodes of forty-five minutes. Before expanding more on the show, I must warn you that it is a story about a serial rapist, therefore, if you feel like this is something triggering, please do research the real story before starting the show.

The case is true and is based upon a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 joint investigation from ProPublica and the Marshall Project by reporters T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong. Their article, An Unbelievable Story of Rape, tells the story of Marie [the middle name of the real victim] and Colorado detectives’ hunt for a serial predator.

The real story first took place in 2008, when Marie was raped, reported the crime to the police, but after multiple interventions, was later charged herself with making a false report to the police, confusing her traumatised memories of the event, to story inconsistencies.

By 2011, Colorado Detectives Stacy Galbraith and Edna Hendershot, officers from separate departments in different towns, were working together to catch a serial rapist terrorising women, completely unaware that Marie even existed. As it turns out, he used the fact that police departments do not have a common database, and therefore if he [the rapist] moved across all states, he would never get caught.

The direction of the episodes is brilliant, giving the overall sense of restriction and asphyxiation the victims felt.

Later, the article became a book and then was adapted by Netflix. This documentary is raw, but in an emotional way, not in showing the actual rape scene, but rather snippets of before or after the act. The story is truly gripping, keeping you at the end of your seat.

The direction of the episodes is brilliant, giving the overall sense of restriction and asphyxiation the victims felt. Another element I truly appreciate is the fact that the show exhibited diversity between the reactions rape victims have, erasing the stereotypical reactions society expects of women.

I must confess that seeing the story under the documentary section surprised me because to my mind, these kinds of situations simply ‘don’t happen in real life’. Unbelievable is such a fitting title, not only because of the plot being a real story, but because it is also a story about who’s story is being heard, and how inhumane at times the way victims are treated by the police.

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