In December 2015, T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong published an essay online called An Unbelievable Story of Rape, which centred on the story of an 18-year-old woman, Marie. In it, the writers describe how Marie was reportedly sexually assaulted in horrifying conditions but her story wasn’t believed by the police and legal departments who should have been there to protect her. Instead, she was publicly humiliated and it was only two-and-a-half years later, when women hundreds of miles away revealed their experiences, that the full truth came to light. The essay, released by The Marshall Project and ProPublica, won a Pulitzer Prize for its examination of the case.
Stories like this are, sadly, becoming more frequent and are an indication of the state of affairs today — the pattern of podcasts like Serial and countless TV shows and films exploring the topic are cases in point. In order to expose the issues to a wider audience and to generate more awareness of sexual violence against women, Netflix are releasing a limited series, Unbelievable. The dramatisation explores how the most vulnerable people, such as women living alone, can be an easy target for sex crimes — and how intuition and integrity is just as important as the legal system in upholding justice.
Unbelievable stars Kaitlyn Dever, fresh off the heels of her performance in Booksmart, alongside Toni Collette and Merritt Wever as detectives on the case. Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) and director Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are Alright) will also be at the helm. From the trailer, we can see that it’s a tense psychological thriller with powerful performances. While plenty of adaptations are given to sensationalism (which makes for gripping entertainment but dilutes the integrity of the story), Unbelievable has the throughline of real-life events anchoring it in reality.
The official synopsis for the limited series is as follows:
When teenager Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) files a police report claiming she’s been sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home, the investigating detectives, as well as the people closest to her, come to doubt the truth of her story. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall (Emmy winners Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) meet while investigating an eerily similar pair of intruder rapes and partner to catch a potential serial rapist.
Inspired by the real events in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and the This American Life radio episode, “Anatomy of Doubt”, with episodes directed by Oscar nominees Susannah Grant and Lisa Cholodenko, Unbelievable is a story of unspeakable trauma, unwavering tenacity, and astounding resilience.
Akin to all Netflix releases, the series boasts high production values and a compelling script from the start, so it’s looking to be a thriller set to lead us into autumn. Unbelievable is due to premiere on Netflix on September 13th, and you can take a look at the poster and images below.