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‘Allen v. Farrow’: What We Learned From First Episode of Docuseries

Opening episode examines Woody’s Dylan obsession, a psychoanalyst’s concerned phone call, and the Soon-Yi bombshell

Dylan and Mia Farrow


The disintegration of the partnership between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow is the focus of the new four-part docuseries Allen v. Farrow, which aired its first episode Sunday night.

The docuseries goes caustically in-depth about the sexual abuse allegations levied against Allen by their adopted daughter Dylan Farrow — and, to a lesser extent, Allen’s affair with another of Mia’s adopted daughters, Soon-Yi Previn — as well as the aftermath of the bitter and public custody battle on the Farrow family. The proceedings were treated as a “trial by tabloid” at the time.

Related: Watch Allen v. Farrow on HBO Max

Allen’s alleged abuse of Dylan on August 4th, 1992 has previously been detailed — in court reporting, in Dylan’s New York Times open letter in 2014, and her 2018 TV interview with Gayle King — but the accusations have never been so painstakingly autopsied: In addition to devastating new interviews with Dylan that lend further credence to the allegations, the filmmaking team behind Allen V. Farrow gained access to police files, affidavits, sworn testimony, taped conversations, and 60 boxes of documentation that were unearthed from an attorney’s storage room, “untouched since the Nineties.”

The docuseries, directed by The Hunting Game documentarian duo of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, doesn’t shy away from its one-sidedness, as it is told entirely from the perspective of Dylan and Mia Farrow and their family, friends, and expert witnesses; while Allen did not participate in the docuseries, he defends himself in disembodied voiceover culled from the audiobook of his 2020 memoir Apropos of Nothing. Following the premiere of the first episode, Allen and Soon-Yi Previn also released a statement denouncing the docuseries and calling it a “hatchet job.”

While the opening chapter centered largely on when things were still somewhat normal between the couple, here are some of the revelations to come out of the first episode of Allen v. Farrow:

The events of August 4th, 1992 still haunt Dylan Farrow, as does Allen’s lack of remorse
“In the last 20 years, he was just able to run amok,” Dylan says early in the first episode, looking at photos where Allen has been “strategically cropped” out. “And I was coping with this through sleepless nights and panic attacks, because of one man… I need in a way to prove to myself that I can face it, which is probably why I feel so strongly about coming forward now.”

Why Mia is speaking now
In the decades following the custody trial and its scandals, while her own children have gone public about Dylan’s allegations, Mia herself has remained mum on the subject of her ex, until now.

“I haven’t spoken publicly about him in decades, but that’s the great regret of my life: That I wasn’t perceptive enough. It’s my fault,” Mia says. “I brought this guy into our family. There’s nothing I can do to take that away. I get why people can’t believe it because who on Earth can believe that of Woody Allen? I couldn’t believe it.”

Allen apparently requested that Farrow adopt a “blonde” baby
The opening episode sets the foundation of the Hollywood-via-New York power couple, with Farrow — recently divorced from composer Andre Previn, the mother to seven biological and adopted children, and concerned her family situation would ward off potential suitors — suddenly pursued romantically by Allen, fresh off his acclaimed twofer of Annie Hall and Manhattan.

It is Allen, admittedly reluctant to fill the father role in Farrow’s family, who acquiesces when Farrow broaches the idea of another adoption, but — rather than another child from another country — he requests a blonde baby girl, as Farrow says in the first episode. That baby is Dylan. After Allen and Farrow have a biological child together — Satchel, who later takes the name Ronan — the director remains intensely fixated on Dylan, which caused concern from family members and the friends, nannies, and other people in their circle.

Woody was allegedly obsessed with Dylan
“I was always in his clutches. He was always hunting me,” Dylan says of Allen’s affections in the first episode. Even before the August 1992 alleged allegation, Woody displayed strange behavior with Dylan that far exceeded that of a doting father: The two of them would cuddle in bed just in their underwear, as witnessed by friends. Mia’s sister Tina Farrow also attested to one incident where Woody applied suntan lotion to a naked Dylan, and his hand “lingered” in her buttocks area. And then there was the “thumb sucking” that Dylan had previously written about, where Allen would creepily instruct Dylan to suck his thumb in an almost sexual way.

Dylan had a “secret”
The docuseries hints at “a secret” that a five-year-old Dylan — who had suddenly become “shy, withdrawn, and very fearful” — withheld from her therapist a few years prior to the alleged 1992 molestation. The therapist never mentioned the “secret” to Mia, nor does Dylan reveal what the secret was in the docuseries. However, the episode details all the ways Dylan would actively attempt to hide from her adopted father whenever he visited the Connecticut house.

A renowned psychoanalyst first warned Mia about Woody
In the docuseries, Farrow relays a phone call she received from Dr. Ethel Person, a psychoanalyst who specialized in Freud and sexual fantasy. Person had seen Allen and Dylan together in their New York apartment building. “She called me and she said, ‘I saw something of Woody, the way he greeted your daughter Dylan.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah?’ ” Farrow says. “And then she said, ‘There was something off.’ Then the floodgates opened for me.”

Following Person’s warning, Allen agreed to see a psychologist about his behavior toward Dylan. “The therapist told me that the behavior was inappropriate, but it wasn’t sexual,” Farrow says. “It could be perceived as sexual by others, by me, and even by the child, but it wasn’t sexual.”

Farrow’s anxiety about the situation dissipated — “I felt it was under control,” she said — although that relief was short-lived…

The other daughter
The first episode concludes with the revelation of Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi Previn, who Farrow adopted in the final year of her marriage to Andre Previn. The details of how Mia discovered that her adopted daughter Soon-Yi was having an affair with her father figure have long been tabloid fodder — at Allen’s apartment, Mia discovered a stack of nude Polaroids, more Hustler than Playboy, as Farrow says in the docuseries — but the emotionally earth-shattering moment has never been described in such detail before. “I remember struggling to breathe,” Farrow says.

Back at Mia’s apartment, she confronted Soon-Yi. As the shockwaves reverberated around Farrow’s family, Dylan’s therapist insisted Mia break the news to her youngest children. As Dylan says at the episode’s close, “I remember my mom told me and Ronan, ‘Daddy took nude photos of Soon-Yi,’ and that was sort of the first instance I thought, ‘Oh, it’s not just me.’ “

From Rolling Stone US