What I thought about: Unbelievable (t/w: rape)

Straight up, I cried at the end of this one. Some people might get bored of the slow-burn, but you have to remember this is based on a true story, and I think the show’s pacing and tone portray the story in an appropriate – and very moving – way.

These two never gave up. And that’s what matters.

What’s it about?
Marie Adler claims she was raped at gunpoint in her apartment where she lives alone. It’s not an easy case for the local police department – the man wore a mask, he showered at her flat, and therefore left no trace of DNA behind. Marie struggles to recall any of the details of her ordeal as she’s questioned multiple times and asked to fill out form after form recalling her horrific experience.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but this is important. Not too long after Marie’s rape, and in a different state, a police detective attends a call of rape. This time, it plays out entirely differently. Detective Karen Duvall doesn’t rush the victim for a statement. It doesn’t matter, though, as the victim is able to recount the crime in spectacular detail. At the scene, the forensics team come up empty and ask the detective to call it a day. ‘Keep looking’, Duvall says.

Besides being an incredible story of determination by the two main police detectives, the series vibrantly highlights how each victim deals with their assault in a different way, and how some police forces are far better at treating victims of rape than others.

What do I like about it?
I didn’t know anything about the show before I hit ‘play’. At first I thought it was a series of completely unrelated stories of unbelievable true crime. But even with my guard down and without paying close attention, I could see the stark differences in the way the police approached the two rapes. The show does a fantastic job of capturing this.

The show covers everything so delicately and with such emotion. Kaitlyn Denver, playing the part of Marie Adler, is absolutely fantastic in this. Things get a lot worse for her before they get better, and there is a fine balance between feeling aggrieved at the injustice being suffered by Marie, and being filled with hope as the detectives close in on their man.

What do I not like about it?
I thought it was appropriate, but some might not like how slow the show is. I personally watched episode after episode, but I have to admit there’s not a lot happening in the middle. There are a lot of slow, panning shots of concerned faces. We also see into the private lives of the two detectives somewhat unnecessarily.

Worth a watch?
Yes. Do yourself a favour and watch this show. It’s important to help you emphasise with victims of rape, and at base level the facts of this true case are absolutely incredible.

By the way…

  • The story came to light in a 2015 article published on The Marshall Project website
  • There’s also a book titled A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America which you can pick up and read for a more in-depth and less dramatised look at the story