Released last week, Unbelievable is Netflix’s new drama based on the true story of teen Marie Adler. After being assaulted she is pressured into recanting her story due to a lack of evidence. The show follows her attempt to cope with the aftermath, not only of the rape but of people believing she was lying about the situation. As the viewer knows Marie is telling the truth it evokes a strong sense of anger and frustration that increases as we watch time pass and her life get more difficult.
Three years later, Detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall are both investigating similar assaults. They begin to realise that the attacks are carried out by the same person and he has been able to avoid detection by striking in different districts, due to the lack of communication between stations the police haven’t found him.
Going between 2008 and 2011 has the potential to be difficult to follow, especially as the show progresses and the overlap between the narratives get more frequent. One way that the producers have successfully carried this out is through colour: in Marie’s story in 2008 the lighting is frequently dark or blue. This connotes the darkness of the tone; the plot deals with some explicit and difficult topics. Marie also struggles with her mood, it is implied she develops PTSD which would not be surprising: the blue shots help to emphasise this. In contrast the 2011 investigation is more yellow and bright. Despite still working with harsh realities, the women of these attacks are supported and believed in a way Marie never is; there is an underlying strength and hope that this man will be caught.
Another motif that connects the two narratives is the sea. During her assault Marie focuses on a photo of herself at the beach. The photo becomes a symbol of her being happy and free, something she loses. The photo and memory becomes a trigger for her. However, at the end we see her free once more. She has faced some justice and is getting to enjoy the sea and beach again, during this scene she finally comes into contact with Detective Karen Duvall and has the chance to thank her for the work they did. The dialogue between them highlights how important it was for Marie to be believed, and the impact it had on her that two women she had never met were fighting to get her justice. It is a beautiful scene and really focuses attention on the main issues throughout the show.
Unbelievable handles topics that are difficult to watch with tact and care. It doesn’t try to gloss anything over or romanticise it, instead it shows the real life consequences of the rapes and the investigations. The acting by the main trio of actresses, Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever, delivers a raw and heartfelt performance and should be recognised for their roles.
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr