As someone who isn’t a fan of Michael Jackson and who already believed the accusations of sexual assault perpetrated on children made vulnerable to his stardom, Leaving Neverland was still a cautious step to take. Four hours of painful, devastating interviews with Wade Robson and James Safechuck; two men who grew up normalized and corrupted into sexual and emotional affairs through lies, coaching, and deception. The two men had decades of their lives dictated by Michael Jackson’s abuse, Leaving Neverland plainly yet impactfully captures the stories of two men uppending their lives to expose a history that for which one perjured himself. The testimony from Robson and Safechuck is not sensationalist, and unless Dan Reed is the best director since Hitchcock, the horror story bleeds out of these men’s conflicted memory of when their hero became their villain; their own personal demon who was still being celebrated in the #MeToo world.
It answered so many questions. Where were the mothers? Right there with them. They add a deep bafflement in the story: they were friends and mother figures to Jackson; they spent significant time together. This isn’t a fabrication like Green Book; there are ample recordings, pictures, and endless faxes proving the connection. There is remorse, but was it ignorance or stupidity? Were they blinded by the money or their genuine affection for the star? There are endless ways systemic abuse has ripped apart the lives of these boys and the entire family in Robson’s case. If you can stomach more misery in your life (and in media, that’s an endless supply for me), Leaving Neverland brought me to tears in a way that should help you question anyone’s undying belief in a person. Michael Jackson was certainly very damaged, thrown to the wolves of the world and possibly had similar incidents in his past, but there was no innocence to this type of abuse. There was studied behavior of manipulation by a weird, rich adult man stalking pretty pre-adolescent boys. Few things are more terrifying.