Allen v Farrow: Four main takeaways from first episode of HBO documentary

Four-episode series examines allegations that Woody Allen sexually abused his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Monday 22 February 2021 21:18
Allen Vs Farrow HBO documentary trailer
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The first episode of Allen v Farrow, HBO’s new documentary series about the allegations of sexual abused faced by Woody Allen, aired on Sunday (21 February) in the US.

Lasting 57 minutes, the episode focused on Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow, as well as the early childhood of their adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow.

Dylan has long alleged that Allen sexually abused her when she was a child. She shared her allegations as an adult in an open letter published in 2014 on The New York Times’s website, a 2016 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, and a 2018 interview with CBS.

Read more: Allen v Farrow review: The new documentary will sound the death knell for Woody Allen’s career

Allen has denied abusing and acting inappropriately towards his daughter and has never faced charges in relation to the claims. He recently denounced the HBO documentary as a “shoddy hit piece” and a “hatchet job riddled with falsehoods”.

Here are the main takeaways from the first episode of Allen v Farrow on HBO:

1. What Dylan says happened goes far beyond 4 August 1992

The central part of Dylan’s allegations revolve around an alleged occurrence on 4 August 1992, when she claims Allen sexually assaulted her.

Allen v Farrow takes pains to paint a broader picture of Dylan’s childhood, including alleged patterns of behaviour on Allen’s part. The filmmaker is described as allegedly hovering around Dylan excessively, surrounding her with “smothering energy” – or, as Dylan says herself: “I was always in his clutches. He was always hunting me.”

Later on, Dylan is heard recounting: “I remember sitting on the edge of his bed, the light in the room, the satin sheets. There were clarinet reeds. I have memories of getting into bed with him. He was in his underwear, and I’m in my underwear, cuddling. I remember his breath on me. He would just wrap his body around me, very intimately.”

Mia Farrow’s sister Tisa Farrow also alleges she saw Allen “suggestively” touching Dylan while applying sunscreen on her. Mia Farrow states she wound up feeling “more like a policeman”, wondering whether she was going to “see something that shouldn’t be happening”.

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Dylan also recounts an alleged incident during which Allen “was directing [her] on how to suck his thumb, telling me what to do with my tongue.” “I think that lasted a while,” she says. “It felt like a long time.”

2. Other people took notice

Priscilla Gilman, a family friend, echoes Dylan’s claims about Allen laying with her in his underwear. “The first time that I saw it, I was coming into the room, and he was getting out of the bed,” Gilman says. “And so I saw that he was only wearing underwear. And I just kind of turned around and walked the other way, because I didn’t want him to know that I had seen.”

Gilman also says she saw Dylan “sucking his thumb, which was really, really weird.” Gilman adds of Allen: “He said, ‘Yes, this helps her. This calms her down. It soothes her to do this.’”

Casey Pascal, another family friend, recounts Allen’s alleged “incredible intensity” around Dylan, and says that after witnessing him playing with her, she was left thinking: “I’ve never seen anybody act like this with a child before, and I really hope it’s a good thing, what’s happening.”

Pascal later adds: “I only started questioning things because Dylan’s reaction to it made me think that it wasn’t good, because you could see her withdrawing from it.”

3. Woody Allen allegedly encouraged Mia Farrow to adopt “a little blonde girl”

The documentary explores the circumstances that led to Dylan’s adoption, from Allen’s original lack of interest in having children – which he disclosed himself at the time – to their decision to try to conceive a child.

When those attempts failed, Mia Farrow says she brought up adoption. Allen, according to Mia Farrow’s recollection, told her he “might be more kindly disposed if it was a little blonde girl”.

“I thought if he cares about that, I should try to find a little girl like that,” Mia Farrow adds, “and then maybe he’ll love her. I eventually ended up with a little blond girl, and that was baby Dylan.”

4. Dylan’s behaviour reportedly changed when she was a child

According to the documentary, Dylan started therapy at the age of five for being “shy, withdrawn, and very fearful”.

“Over time, Dylan went from being outgoing and effervescent and talkative to her having this sadness and this withdrawn quality,” Dylan’s brother Ronan Farrow says at one point.

“And I didn’t know as a kid how to contextualise that, but now in retrospect I understand that that was a pattern of something very serious and alarming.”

Allen v Farrow will air for three more episodes on HBO and HBO Max on Sundays at 9pm ET.