Thrillers that don’t weigh people down are a rarity. Dear Child is one of those
he Germans seem to be on a roll in the psychological thrillers genre. Take, for example, the series Dark. The plot, the picturisation, the eerie music and the wistful silence in an ordinary town where people have lived almost ordinary lives. But not everyone has the mental capacity to watch a series for that long. So, did Netflix come up with a shorter version following the same theme? Yes.
“I did everything right. I am a big girl.”
Putting out her hands, front and back as a form of greeting; telling them the rules must be followed; refusing to give away her real identity; homeschooled and elder sister to Jonathan, the series stars Naila Schuberth as Hannah, a girl who grew up in isolation: a genius at first glance.
However, her expressions start taking a sinister turn once her mother Lena ends up in hospital and Hannah decides to open up to nurse Ruth. We’re told that children don’t lie but do they?
The series Dear Child follows a college student, Lena, who disappeared thirteen years ago and has apparently just been found. Played by Kim Riedle, Lena is not who she admits to being. Covered from head to toe in blood, she is found on a lone road in a dense forest near the Dutch border. Her aged parents rush to identify her only to claim that she’s not their daughter.
But the series isn’t just about Lena. The second they see Hannah they scream out Lena’s name. DNA tests show that Hannah and Jonathan are Lena’s children and Mattias and Karin Beck’s grandchildren. However, a conflicting DNA test report and contradictory statements by Hannah make the police suspicious.
Brought up in a place with no windows, cold bluish-grey walls, dependent on a ventilation system with only one door for exit used by their captor; Jonathan and Hannah seem to be dissociated from the world. They are happy in a world of their own; family means everything to them.
The series is a reminder of how trauma inflicted in childhood sets in and manifests itself in menacing forms; silent pain waiting for a trigger… Is it possible for the line between reality and memory to blur if one is kept in captivity for too long?
Dependent on their mother who has received only 1.5 litres of water a day and little food for 13 years and is abused by their captor, the family seems to be unresponsive and has a negative attitude towards integrating back into society and seeking normalcy in daily life.
Hardly normal, yet driven by empty promises of living in a new house near the beach, the family runs back to their captor the second the authorities and the grandparents take their eyes off them.
In the words of Agatha Christie, “very few of us are what we seem.”
Are children really honest? Do parents lie to protect their children or to protect themselves? If time were a shape, it’d be a circle. People have a natural tendency to repeat their behaviours and patterns and the cycle keeps going from victim to perpetrator to victim to perpetrator and repeat.
The series is a reminder of how trauma inflicted in childhood sets in and manifests itself in menacing forms; silent pain waiting for a trigger. It happened to be Lena in this case. Is it possible for the line between reality and memory to blur if one is kept in captivity for too long?
The simple and straightforward plot of the six-episode serial makes it hard to gatekeep the story in a review, but the story has its ups and downs and its share of subplots and backstories.
The exceptional acting skills of Hannah, portraying a cold and distant malnourished child remarkably wise for her age, draw the audience in for an immersive experience. Brushing off blood stains from carpets, Jonathan is healthier than his sister and despite his daily chore of being an accomplice to murders his innocence can be seen dripping from, subtle scenes of him playing as a stranger is brought into the house dead. His resolute refusal to backbite and his unwavering loyalty to his captor indicate that his emotions are harboured in the kids’ section.
The Netflix series could be a hit like Dark, given its proper plot closure, raw and unique acting and a-cut- above-the-rest hues, tones and graphics. The series comes as a pleasant break from stories that are too traumatic or sensitive and those that come with missing sections. For a light weekend watch, Dear Child is a perfect series.
The writer is an undergraduate student of psychology at FC College, Lahore