Netflix’s drama about a retracted rape allegation is a fiercely feminist look at the nature of truth and whose stories get heard
According to the latest figures, convictions for rapes and sexual assaults are at their lowest in the UK for more than a decade. There are just 919 convictions for the 60,000 reported attacks. The situation in the US is even bleaker, with an estimated five people convicted for every 1,000 offences.
It doesn’t help that some people still believe that rape isn’t a cut-and-dried crime – that maybe the victim was “asking for it” or that they are simply lying. Netflix’s new eight-part drama, Unbelievable, attempts to explore this situation. It’s an adaptation of a Pulitzer-winning article from US investigative site ProPublica, about a young woman from Lynnwood, Washington, who claimed she had been tied up and raped in her bedroom before changing her story and eventually denying that the attack had ever happened. We follow Marie Adler (Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever), an 18-year-old who is fresh from “a million” foster placements, living in a kind of halfway house for people transitioning out of care. She cuts a vulnerable figure and is an unreliable narrator, alternately panicked and disinterested. But did she make up the attack, or was she merely bewildered by intrusive, endless questioning from the police? And how does the work of two female detectives (Karen Duvall, played by Merritt Wever, and Toni Collette’s Grace Rasmussen) three years later affect the situation?