Sins of Our Mother is a newly released three-part documentary with a meandering storyline
ins Of Our Mother is a newly released documentary series that unfolds over a span of three episodes. The series is directed by Skye Borgman, who has previously released Abducted in Plain Sight and Girl in the Picture to widespread viewership on Netflix. It follows Lori Vallow’s descent from loving mother of three to a paranoid murderer through interviews with her family and voice recordings.
The first episode opens up with grim footage from a police body camera. A man comes into view and says, “I can’t get in touch with my kids. She…. she’s lost her mind. I-I-I-I don’t know how else to say it.” This sets up the episode and subsequent exposition very aptly, as viewers are taken into Lori Vallow’s family-tree and its strange history. One of her brothers, Alex Cox, shot her husband Charles Vallow in alleged self-defence. Alex later died of a blood clot. Her second brother, Adam, is one of the more lucid family members and provides an accurate account of Lori’s motives and mental state. He was on Charles’s side and explained that Lori had been greatly influenced by the teachings of Chad Daybell, who preached that only 144,000 of Jesus’s followers would be saved when Judgement Day arrives. She became exceedingly erratic, wanting to save her family’s souls at any expense. She left Charles in Arizona, taking his truck and some belongings besides two of her children, 16 year old Tylee Ryan and 6 year old JJ Vallow. She manipulated the police when questioned, claiming that Charles’s desire to have her committed to a mental health facility was completely unfounded and an attempt to control her.
Colby Ryan, Lori’s surviving son, provides most of the interviews that set the stage for her marriage to Daybell following the deaths of their respective spouses and her alleged murder of her own children, Tylee and JJ. He talks about his estrangement from his mother, and how he had to cut contact after friction between Lori and his wife due to the former’s extreme religious views.
Lori’s mother, Janice Cox, provides some insight into the situation as well. However, her upbeat demeanour suggests that she is either in shock or in denial about her daughter’s murder of her grandchildren.
Sins of Our Mother has a lot of moving parts with its multitude of interviews, police footage and the ongoing murder case against Lori and Chad Daybell. However, it manages to link these elements rather well with a fast-paced storyline
Interviews from various experts and preachers in the Mormon community have been featured to establish the scope of Lori’s beliefs. Julie Rowe, a Mormon writer who worked for Daybell, faces the camera with utter seriousness and says, “I believe we’re in the final phase before Christ comes,” The fire-and-brimstone-doomsday-is-nigh mentality is explored in extensive length to explain how Lori’s vulnerability may have been exploited, leading to mental decline.
The rest of the story puts together the circumstances of Daybell’s wife and her murder, which was initially ruled an accidental death. Lori’s kidnapping and alleged murder of her children, and Daybell’s involvement in the matter are explained.
Sins of Our Mother has a lot of moving parts with its multitude of interviews, police footage and the ongoing murder case against Lori and Chad Daybell. However, it manages to link these elements rather well with a fast-paced storyline. Due to the abundance of testimonies and evidence presented, there is almost no room for embellishment and sensationalism. Skye Borgman has made this concise-and-accurate style of storytelling into her directorial signature, as evidenced previously by Abducted in Plain Sight and Girl in the Picture. There are no filler episodes and even though the story takes a bit of effort to follow, it is worth the viewers’ time to do that in order to fully engage with the case.
Overall, Sins of Our Mother is a highly recommended watch that follows a relevant, present-day case with plenty of twists and turns to keep it from getting monotonous.
The author is a student at Aitchison College Lahore and has a background in empirical science.