‘Allen v. Farrow’ Episode 1 Recap: ‘Inappropriately Intense’ Behavior
The first episode of the four-part HBO documentaries “Allen v. Farrow ”was released on Sunday night and offers a fresh investigation into the decade-long allegations of Dylan Farrow of sexual abuse against filmmaker Woody Allen, her adoptive father.
When Ms. Farrow was 7 years old, she accused Mr. Allen of sexually assaulting her on August 4, 1992 at the family home in Connecticut. Mr. Allen has long denied the allegations, which were at the center of a bitter custody battle between Mr. Allen and Mia Farrow, the Hollywood power couple who made 13 films together.
Mr. Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn also plays a central role in the series. About seven months before the day Dylan Farrow said her father attacked her, Mia Farrow discovered nudes of Ms. Previn, then a freshman, in Mr. Allen’s apartment.
Beginning in 1992, there has been several years of focused media attention on the family amid the custody battle and the authorities’ investigation in response to Dylan Farrow’s report. Mr Allen has long argued that Mia Farrow trained Dylan to make the allegations after learning of his relationship with Ms. Previn, whom he married in 1997. Although a Connecticut prosecutor refused to prosecute Mr. Allen, he said he wanted to save Dylan the trauma of a trial. He said he believed she was molested.
Almost three decades have passed since the allegations surfaced, but the intricate saga has returned and debated repeatedly – most recently during the #MeToo movement.
Created by documentary filmmakers Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, and Amy Herdy, this series features in-depth interviews with Dylan and Mia Farrow, as well as Dylan’s siblings and family friends. It contains footage of Dylan Farrow, aged 7, telling her mother, who is behind the camera, what her father did to her in August 1992 – a videotape that has never been publicly released. Letty Aronson, Mr. Allen’s sister, who is currently handling advertising inquiries for him, declined to comment on the documentary.
This footage does not appear in the first episode, which examines the beginnings of Ms. Farrow’s relationship with Mr. Allen and observations of how Dylan became the subject of her father’s “intense affection”.
Here is a recap of what we saw on Sunday night.
The series opened in 1992 at a press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York, at which Mr. Allen defended himself against the abuse allegations and accused Mia Farrow of inciting them.
But the episode quickly deviates from the account of Mr. Allen, who did not take part in the series, but whose perspective is often captured by audio snippets of his most recent memoir “Apropos of Nothing”. It’s about a grown-up Dylan Farrow, now 35, leafing through a family photo album.
Dylan Farrow, who was born in Texas and adopted as a baby, shares a childhood “idyllic most of the time” and what it was like to be the child of a famous Hollywood actress and director: memories of stumbling in the film As a child, he played in private planes for family vacations, swims in “posh” hotel pools – all of which is illustrated by home videos that Ms. Farrow made during her childhood.
But under the surface of this busy, unconventional family – nine children cared for by unmarried parents of movie stars – things were complicated.
The Hollywood power couple
The episode harks back to the early romance between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen that began when they first met at Elaine’s Manhattan restaurant in 1979. Ms. Farrow remembers the couple shining their lights on each other’s lights from their apartment windows from across Central Park visible to each other. The signal was a way of saying, “I love you,” she said. Hanging a red towel out of the window meant, “I love you so much.”
Despite the fact that Ms. Farrow already had seven children – three biologically with her then-husband André Previn and four of them adopted – she said she accepted that Mr. Allen told her he was “not interested in children”.
Gradually, however, Mr. Allen began to spend more time with the children in the Connecticut home and town, and developed a particularly close relationship with Moses Farrow, whom Mrs. Farrow adopted after her divorce from Mr. Previn.
Let the family grow
When Ms. Farrow wanted to expand the family even further, she said, Mr. Allen told her that he still didn’t want any responsibility for having a child of his own, but that he “could be kinder if it were a little blonde girl.” Ms. Farrow eventually adopted Dylan, who quickly became the subject of Mr. Allen’s affection. Two years later, Ms. Farrow had a son, Ronan Farrow, originally named Satchel. (Ms. Farrow later suggested that Ronan the child in a 2013 Vanity Fair interview could have been Frank Sinatra’s, not Mr. Allen.)
In 1991, Ms. Farrow agreed to a family dynamic that would shape the legal conflict for years to come: Mr. Allen adopted Dylan Farrow and Moses Farrow.
An “inappropriately intense” relationship
At the heart of the first episode is a series of interviews with members of the Farrow family and friends, some of whom have never spoken publicly, and who say they saw Mr. Allen conduct towards Dylan Farrow that seemed inappropriate or made them uncomfortable made.
Dylan Farrow said she has memories of going to bed with her father – both in underwear – and he would wrap his body “very tightly” around her. A family friend, Priscilla Gilman, who became close to the family when she was with Matthew Previn, one of Mia Farrow’s eldest sons, recalled seeing Mr. Allen in this situation and in his underwear climbed the bed. Ms. Gilman, who often spent time with the children, said she also saw Dylan Farrow sucking Mr. Allen’s thumb. (Ms. Gilman said Mr. Allen told her that sucking his thumb calmed his daughter down, but an adult Dylan Farrow now sees this as a violation and recalls that her father specifically advised her how to do it.)
Mia Farrow’s sister, Tisa Farrow, said in an interview that she once saw Mr. Allen’s hand “suggestively” resting between Dylan Farrow’s buttocks while applying sunscreen.
Mia Farrow, who remembered Mr. Allen kneeling in front of her daughter or sitting next to her with his face on his lap, said she once confronted him with what she saw and said she didn’t feel ” probably with the way you treat her and look at her. “She said that Mr. Allen got angry and ended up apologizing profusely. But then Ethel called Person, a respected psychiatrist at Ms. Farrow’s home, to tell her that the way Mr. Allen greeted Dylan Farrow was a little “off”. Mr. Allen then agreed to see a psychologist.
The psychologist said she saw Mr. Allen being “inappropriately intense” with Dylan Farrow. But Ms. Farrow tells the filmmakers that the therapist did not believe the behavior was sexual – even if the audience or the child could perceive it as sexual.
Dylan’s changing behavior
In an interview with the filmmakers, Dylan Farrow says she loved her father but received “intense affection all along”; People around her, including Ms. Gilman and her brother Ronan, noticed that she often crawled away or tried to hide when Mr. Allen called her or walked into the room.
“Over time, Dylan was no longer outgoing, bubbly, and talkative, but had this sadness and this withdrawn quality,” Farrow said in an interview with the filmmakers.
Mr. Allen has denied ever having been sexually inappropriate or abusive towards Dylan Farrow, instead portraying himself in his own writing as an initially reluctant father who surprisingly fell in love with his daughter and enjoyed showering her with affection. In part of his memoirs included on the episode, Mr. Allen wrote: “I adored Dylan and spent as much time with her as possible from childhood. I played with her, bought her endless toys, dolls, stuffed animals and my little ponies. “
The turning point
Then, in January 1992, came the discovery that changed everything. Ms. Farrow said she went to Mr. Allen’s apartment to get a coat and found racy Polaroid photos of her college-age daughter, Ms. Previn, next to the phone.
Ms. Farrow said she remembered putting the photos in her pocket and leaving in shock. When she returned home, she said that she had confronted Ms. Previn. (Ms. Previn did not take part in this documentary.)
Dylan Farrow’s therapist advised her mother to tell the kids about the photos, Mia Farrow said. She hesitated, but she did, and Dylan Farrow said it was the first time she realized she might not be the only one on the receiving end of her father’s behavior and said that she was thinking, “Oh, it is not just me ”