Long before hitting TV screens in the UK, Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me was making headlines and dividing opinions.
The controversial documentary, directed by Dan Reed, centres on the testimony of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who accused Michael Jackson of abusing them as boys at his Neverland ranch.
Since the film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January, Jackson’s estate have been on the defensive, suing the producers HBO for $100m and attempting to block Channel 4 from airing the documentary in the UK.
Channel 4 refused to pull the film and, last night, UK audiences got the opportunity to make up their own mind, with 2.4m people tuning in to watch the first part of the three-hour long documentary.
TV reviewers offered up a flurry of four-star reviews in response.
The Independent’s Ed Cumming said that despite the shock factor of Robson and Safechuck’s testimonies, Leaving Neverland disappointed.
“It is too long, for one. I suspect the idea is to pile up so much detail as to put the reliability of the witnesses beyond doubt. But it is also entirely one-sided, with no voice from the Jackson side except from those in the archive footage,” wrote Cumming.
Lucy Mangan from The Guardian hailed the film as “an astonishing piece of work”.
“Relentlessly spare and unsensationalist, it manages better than any other in its genre not to let its attention wander from the survivors’ testimony,” she concluded.
The Telegraph’s film critic, Tim Robey, praised the work of the British director Reed, who’s previously tackled the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks and the life of paedophile hunters on film.
“All his thought is in the edit and the structure, allowing the families to step forward as our storytellers, although the film also incorporates an impressive amount of grainy video footage of the boys,” wrote Robey.
The second and final part of the documentary airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 4.
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