Film Review: Girl in the Picture

Year: 2022

Runtime: 101 minutes

Directors: Skye Borgman

By Tom Moore

Netflix and Skye Borgman, director of “Abducted in Plain Sight”(2017), deliver a tense true crime mystery with “Girl in the Picture”(2022) that’s loaded and, albeit, bloated with so many shocking twists and turns that’ll keep your head spinning.

The film chronicles the investigation of the death of a young mother and all the shocking and horrifying discoveries made about her life and the lead up to her death. Things start out relatively simple with “Girl in the Picture” as it mostly seems like a standard true crime special, but it quickly develops into something more as investigators dig deeper into the truth. “Girl in the Picture” is the exact kind of mystery that audiences, especially Netflix subscribers, want to get sucked into as it initially hooks you and then continually pulls you deeper into its story with each new realization.

As investigators go deeper into the life of the young mother, they begin to uncover darker secrets that chronicle a history of horrifying abuse and a life of being held captive. The discoveries surrounding the nature of this young woman and her abuser are deeply fascinating in how gruesomely sickening and wildly disturbing they are that you almost can’t believe that it’s true. Even the shockers that come from gaining a deeper understanding of who this woman was and the life she was forced to live is continually mind-blowing and chill-inducing. It’s tough to get too deep into “Girl in the Picture’s” mystery without spoiling much and truthfully, the best way to go in is blind as it makes the shocks and twisty turns as breathtaking as possible.

The way that “Girl in the Picture’s” story constantly expands shows the level of detail behind it and Borgman’s willingness to take viewers down the rabbit hole, but there can be a little too much. To say that “Girl in the Picture” is full of unexpected twists would be a vast understatement as it delivers so many surprising shocks and unforeseen revelations that even a twist master like M. Night Shyamalan would lose his mind. However, there is a certain point when the experience does become overloaded with twists, and you start feel like the film is a little bloated in its story. It’s incredibly admirable and important that Borgman decides to spare no detail in telling this story, but it can lead to the viewing experience hitting a sluggish bump in the road.

“Girl in the Picture” is not just a shockfest though as Borgman excellently helms the storytelling and puts great focus on the personal stakes and impact of this story. Even as the story jumps around different points in time and different characters and perspectives, Borgman weaves it all together well to tell a cohesive and engaging story with some personal emotion. Given how the documentary shows how this young woman’s identity and power was stripped from her, it’s incredibly empowering and meaningful to see Borgman give it back through having those close her and close to the investigation talk about why this case and this woman mattered to them.

The use of interviews with people the young woman grew up with not only helps viewers learn more about her, but also establishes the impact she had on those around her. Even hearing investigators and journalists looking into the case get emotional about her story and talk about how they were determined to find the truth really makes you more invested. The final act of “Girl in the Picture” is a total emotional rollercoaster and the way that it honors and pays its own respects to this young woman is deeply heartfelt to watch. It feels like the perfect note to leave things on and crafts a more hopeful resolution that stays personal and feels equally unexpected in a good way given all the darkness you go through to get to it.

“Girl in the Picture” is the kind of true crime documentary that will certainly leave you spinning and Borgman constantly elevates the storytelling and impact it leaves by how she holds it all together and lets the more personally emotional parts flourish.

4 stars

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