‘Allen v. Farrow’: Woody Allen docuseries focuses on Soon-Yi Previn in second episode


Farrow and Allen’s relationship was already under great strain because of an unhealthy power dynamic, according to the series, as well as Allen’s alleged inappropriate behavior toward their young daughter, Dylan. In 1992, 7-year-old Dylan told Farrow that Allen had sexually assaulted her. The accusation became a central component of Farrow and Allen’s contentious custody battle.

Allen, now 85, and Previn, 50, issued a joint statement last week accusing the documentarians of “surreptitiously collaborating with the Farrows and their enablers to put together a hatchet job riddled with falsehoods.” Allen has consistently denied the assault allegations. The series — which features interviews with Mia Farrow, 76, and Dylan, 35 — tells another, harrowing story.

Here are major takeaways from the second episode of “Allen v. Farrow.”

Farrow’s decision to adopt children was inspired by her own childhood

Farrow adopted 10 of her 14 children, her “way of trying to give back” after surviving polio as a child. She doesn’t know who she would’ve been had she not had polio, she says, but “I do feel very strongly that, when possible, if you can alleviate suffering, you should try.”

This inspired Farrow’s decision to adopt Previn, an older child, from South Korea in 1977; she had adopted daughters Lark Song and Daisy separately from Vietnam in the years prior. Previn had been abandoned by her birth mother and “wasn’t ready to bond with me,” Farrow says. In an audio interview, Daisy describes young Previn as having had “more angst” than her other siblings.

Allen and Farrow’s professional collaboration ‘eroded her sense of self’

The success of 1968′s “Rosemary’s Baby” gave Farrow “credibility as an actor,” she says, noting that her marriage to Frank Sinatra fell apart at the same time “because I wouldn’t leave the movie when he told me to.” When she began to date Allen — after a nearly decade-long marriage to composer André Previn — she hesitated to intertwine her career with his. But eventually, she thought of it as a way for her to be treated as “an equal.”

Farrow and Allen made a total of 13 films together.

Over time, however, Farrow’s career became reliant on Allen. She didn’t have her own representation because “he said I could share his agent,” she recalls. The singer Carly Simon, a family friend of Farrow’s, says in the series that she “saw him, little by little, eroding [Farrow’s] self-esteem.”

He “eroded her sense of self,” Simon continues. “He didn’t like Mia to see her friends. He just wanted to isolate her. I don’t know what was behind his saying cruel things to her, whether or not he believed it, or whether it was just a tactic to kick her down so that she’d be more under his rule.”

The series suggests Allen’s films were ‘grooming’ audiences

A notable number of Allen’s films feature relationships between young women and older men — including 1979′s “Manhattan,” which a woman named Christina Engelhardt, interviewed by the documentarians, says was inspired by the time she spent with Allen beginning at age 17.

The female protagonist in “Manhattan” is that same age. Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson notes in the series that the fictional teenager’s relationship with Woody’s middle-aged character “is depicted as something that’s real. It may be kind of a May-December romance, perhaps, but it’s very much a relationship that’s considered to be between two adults.”

“You get the feeling watching Woody Allen’s films that he’s trying to make us acclimated to the idea of these kinds of relationships, this sort of power dynamic — in a sense, grooming us,” Wilkinson continues. “It’s something that he does repeatedly, over and over, in films. Throughout the years, the same archetypes show up. The same kinds of big age gaps in relationships show up. When you see it over and over, it kind of attunes you to thinking, this is normal.”

Some critics have pointed out the weakness of this argument as it appears in “Allen v. Farrow.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg wrote in his review of the series that while most wouldn’t deny the “unsettling” nature of Allen’s “romantic fixation on much younger women,” to suggest that he “groomed” audiences to accept him and Previn being together is “a reading of psychology requiring expertise beyond that of a cultural critic talking head.”

Previn may have started seeing Allen before college

Although Farrow struggled to bond with Previn, she says her daughter got along well with Allen, who started taking the high-schooler to basketball games and inviting her to his screening room. In a clip from the audiobook for his 2020 memoir “Apropros of Nothing,” Allen describes Previn as having been “highly intelligent, full of latent potential and ready to ripen superbly. If only someone would show her a little interest, a little support. And most important, some love.”

Allen said his relationship with Previn began in December 1991, after her first semester in college. But court testimonies from his doorman and business manager suggest Previn had visited Allen’s residence in high school as well. A housekeeper found condom wrappers in the trash.

Farrow recalls finding explicit photos of Previn at Allen’s residence less than a year after Previn had graduated from high school. The discovery threw the family into disarray; Previn’s brother, Fletcher, says that, to Farrow’s other children, Allen “went from a father figure to a person who is a predator that we have to keep out of the house and protect ourselves from.”

Moses Farrow, who had especially bonded with Allen, wrote him a letter stating that “it was a great feeling having a father but you smashed that feeling and dream with a single act.” He has since supported Allen amid the renewed conversation around Dylan’s allegations of sexual assault.

Farrow has recordings of Dylan detailing Allen’s alleged abuse

Allen continued to visit his children, Dylan and Ronan, even after Farrow discovered his relationship with Previn. He once stopped by their Connecticut home in the summer of 1992 while Farrow was away shopping with her friend, Casey Pascal, who had left her babysitter, Alison Strickland, to watch the children along with Farrow’s babysitter, Kristi Groteke, and the kids’ French tutor.

Groteke and the tutor couldn’t find Dylan for about 20 minutes, as the babysitter later testified in court. Farrow remembers noticing that Dylan didn’t have underwear on when she and Pascal returned from the store. The next morning, Pascal called Farrow to say Strickland said she had seen Allen kneeling on the floor in front of Dylan, with his head buried in her lap.

The docuseries includes a videotape from August 1992 of Dylan telling her mother that Allen had touched her inappropriately and sexually assaulted her in the attic.

“I remember focusing on my brother’s train set,” an adult Dylan recalls. “And then he just stopped. He was done. And we just went downstairs.”

In a statement shared Sunday on Twitter before the episode aired, Dylan said her mother had given her the tape when she became an adult and that she wrestled with whether to allow it to be viewed publicly. She said she feared “putting Little Dylan in the court of public opinion.”

“While I have been able to take the stones thrown at me as an adult,” she continued, “to think of that happening to this little girl is stomach-churning. But I decided to let them share it in hopes that Little Dylan’s voice might now help others suffering in silence feel heard, understood and less alone. And that my testimony might also help parents, relatives, friends, loved ones and the world in general understand first-hand how an abused child might speak and interpret these horrific events.”

This post has been updated.


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