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Review: Netflix documentary 'Audrie and Daisy' stands for rape victims

Posted October 15

"Audrie and Daisy" is a true story set in the modern world of social media and justice systems. The Netflix documentary explores two cases in which teenage girls were raped and then left to deal with the crushing aftereffects.

While "Audrie and Daisy" is unbalanced and stretched thin at times, it conveys a compelling argument for the victims and against the court decisions that let them down. The message of standing up for rape victims is timely. While the victims' stories were lost in the stark, unjust court system, they are brought back to life through documentary storytelling.

A big disadvantage the filmmakers encountered is the lack of footage to tell the story. Since the first subject is no longer alive and events from both stories occurred years ago, viewers are left with visuals that are far from exciting. There simply was no opportunity to match the b-roll played over the interviews with what was actually being said. Instead, audio of interviewees recounting Audrie's and Daisy's stories layers over images such as an empty backyard swimming pool or random teenage girls applying makeup.

Yet this discrepancy is redeemed — to an extent — by the content of the interviews. "Audrie and Daisy" delivers absolutely heartbreaking scenes as an overwhelmed mother recounts finding her daughter after she committed suicide, or an older brother narrates how he rushed his sister to the emergency room after she had been raped by one of his school friends. While the documentary’s visual footage falters, its touching interviews from the victims' loved ones are certainly the documentary’s strong point.

While the court decisions ruled otherwise, "Audrie and Daisy" is quite persuasive in portraying the girls as innocent victims of rape who experience injustice after their assault. One device of persuasion used by directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk is the cringe-worthy interviews given by officials from Daisy’s town, which include weak attempts at defending the accused boys for what they did. Another is the injustice that comes in the girls' lives post-sexual assault — from waves of attacks on social media and the victims' own feelings of guilt and self-hatred to the slap on the wrist given the perpetrators as punishment for their acts.

While the documentary offers some great tools of persuasion, it also appears off-balance. First, with the title "Audrie and Daisy," viewers expect the film to be centered equally on two girls. Yet the film unsettlingly finishes Audrie’s story quite early on, giving the lion's share of the film time to Daisy’s story. When the film wraps up near the end and switches to a scene showing Audrie’s loved ones visiting her grave, viewers experience a perplexed pause when returning to Audrie's story, having gotten so wrapped up in Daisy’s story for so long.

Interview time also contributes to the feel of the film being off-balance. Daisy’s older brother puzzlingly has more face time than any other interviewee — including Daisy herself. The brother’s extended interview contributes to the feel of the documentary stretching thin in some scenes, such as when the brother is shown working out in his gym or coaching his youth baseball team — both of which are loosely, if at all, connected with the main story of Daisy’s sexual assault.

Despite whatever unevenness encumbers the film, "Audrie and Daisy" unapologetically examines incidents of rape and its aftereffects on the victims. The documentary makes a bold statement amid the current attention to rape and the court system's policies for perpetrators of sexual assault. With the reminder that “the words of our enemies aren’t as awful as the silence of our friends,” the documentary encourages viewers to stand up for all those in similar circumstances as the victims who opened up on camera.

"Audrie and Daisy" was a Sundance Film Festival feature and is now available on Netflix.

"Audrie and Daisy" is rated TV-14 according to Netflix. Common Sense Media indicates the film contains violence, including descriptions of sexual assault, suicide and bullying, explicit language and teenage substance abuse, running time: 95 minutes.

McKenna Park is an aspiring journalist and a student at BYU studying Communications. Contact her at mckennaleeknudsen@gmail.com.

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