Netflix‘s new series, Unbelievable, follows the harrowing story of Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever), an 18-year-old from Washington who claimed in 2008 to have been tied up and raped in her bedroom.
A vulnerable teenager going through the kind of torment no young woman should have to experience, Adler goes from one foster home to the next and suffers the indignity of being treated with suspicion by the police officers she confides in.
The show is less about what happened than the way rape claims are viewed by authorities and a society as a whole.
Only the intervention of two detectives, Rasmussen (Toni Collette) and Duvall (Merritt Wever), changes the course of the story.
Working in Colorado and Denver, their work begins to draw similarities between a calculated string of attacks by a serial rapist, carried out by breaking into homes and taking photos of the victims.
But is it based on a true story? Here’s what you need to know…
What is Unbelievable about and how was Marie Adler treated unfairly?
The eight-part series is indeed based on a true story – and Dever, who depicts the story of Adler as she changes and then withdraws her story under unforgiving scrutiny, feels a strong sense of injustice for her character.
The Los-Angeles based star of hit coming-of-age film Booksmart has spoken out in the build-up to her latest release, saying: ‘Marie got interviewed several times and I think it was like she was being attacked over and over again.
‘I think it’s really important to see Marie’s story but also to see the collective perspective.
‘The system did fail Marie because they were treating her interviews like interrogations. They were treating her like a suspect instead of a victim, and that’s heartbreaking.’
What is the story behind Unbelievable?
Netflix’s dark drama is adapted from an article by the US investigative site ProPublica, written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong and originally titled An Unbelievable Story of Rape.
The investigation won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize, awarded for exceptional examples of journalism.
The article revealed how Duvall and Rasmussen painstakingly pieced their evidence together three years after Adler had come forward.
It took until December 2011 for an army veteran, Marc O’Leary (given the name of Christopher McCarthy in the series) to be found guilty of 28 counts of rape in Colorado, as well as two in Washington State – one of which was Marie.
He was sentenced to more than 327 years in prison for his crimes.
Images of Marie were found on O’Leary’s computer, as well as pictures of his other victims in Colorado.
The film explores how she was betrayed by those around her and the immediate investigating team.
She eventually received numerous apologies when the scale of her ordeal was evidenced, suing the city for a settlement of £150,000.
What does Toni Collette say about the story Unbelievable is based on?
Collette, who follows in the footsteps of the detective work that identified marks on O’Leary’s body and vehicle, says: ‘It seems to have been the case, in the past, that cops were sort of looking out for cracks in the story to have this ‘a-ha!’ moment – ‘you’re busted, you made this up.’
‘When all of these women start coming forward, you realise just how collective it is, how common it is and how frightening it is.’
According to reports Marie is a long-haul trucker and is married with two children.
Unbelievable is available now on Netflix.
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