Leaving Neverland (2019)
I will start this review by preferencing where I stand morally with this film which I think is almost necessary for a film with this controversy seriousness. Growing up I never really got into Michael Jackson, I never hated his music but honestly have never really listened to most of his music and never idolized him in any way. I have no personal connection to this story in that way, I went in ready to experience this movie and look at it in the most objective way possible as a documentary. I have not done the research necessary to firmly stand with either side of the heated debate surrounding these films subject matter. My goal with reviewing this film with any positive or negative is to review this film as a documentary, I am not in any way commenting on this issue or subject matter. Yet even with that said I will say that I firmly believe that these voices should be listened to and respected with further investigation and research as I plan on doing, just because Michael Jackson made hit music does not mean he is immune to the horror of this situation if it turned out that the narrative in this film was reality. Again I am not saying for certain it is, but I am saying that these claims should be taken seriously with a large amount of respect.
But objectively looking at Leaving Neverland as a documentary overall I am pretty positive on it. One of the elements that made me a bit nervous going into this film was its 4-hour runtime. I am historically more a fan of focused shorter movies that don't need filler to pad its runtime and I was honestly worried that is what this movie would be, luckily it wasn't though. I actually think this movie deserves its longer runtime. This is a thorough film that leaves little out, it deep dives into not just the actual time of the accused sexual assault but also focuses on the impact these events have had on all of their lives. Jackson came in and turned their lives upside down and no one involved every truly recovered. I also really appreciated how they not only explored this with the kids but the entire family, even though the sexual abuse only happened to the one individual in the group the situation affected everyone. It tackles the flawed mindsets and individual elements in ways that I found really interesting and unique, it's not just a standard basic relationship of abuse, It goes way beyond that and this is not afraid to push that and explore that. I was also shocked by the amount of love in this movie, sure Michael Jackson ends up being seen as a disgusting figure in these individuals lives he was an important figure and someone who deeply mattered to them as children and even beyond. It is not afraid of this and doesn't try to hide it. I really found that this documentary and the people involved have enough to say and I never found myself getting bored in an unnecessary side tangent.
This film is also really well edited when it comes to quality. All the interviews and clips look nice and some of the clips they were able to get were pretty impressive. This film was able to have interesting visuals that went perfectly with the narrative being told and helped put everything into context. Unfortunately, at times it lacks direction and gets messy which easily is my biggest flaw with the film. This bounces back and forth between two different kids and also focuses on their families and its hard to keep track of everything at times. It has a lot of interesting stuff to say but it can be hard to follow the huge conversation this movie is trying to have, I wish it was a little clearer and more thought out as it would only add to the impact of the narrative being told.
Despite its messy nature, I will still say that this movie accomplishes what it tries to do, it tries to raise awareness of the situation and show the viewer just how disgusting this narrative was and how deeply it affected the people involved even to this day. A lot of this movie is hard to sit through and it is a film I never want to see again, but it is wildly effective. I will never look at Michael Jackson the same way again and the trauma portrayed in this documentary felt genuine and really connected. As far as building an argument the only thing this lacks is strong physical proof, the little they showcase are kinda weak in relation to these allegations but that can't be helped by the filmmakers and this movie isn't really trying to be a deep dive into the case. It is two men and their families telling their story and from that perspective, this film works. I only hope that the people involved can find peace and somehow move on from this situation and that them taking this step forward can at least start another serious conversation about Michael Jackson's behavior so we can learn to true nature of the King of Pop.