AUDRIE & DAISY Review
Director: Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen
Ouch, that got surprisingly real. AUDRIE & DAISY is, despite all its narrative clunkiness, a phenomenal Netflix acquisition and one that the streaming service ought to advertise more. Caught in the media buzz that is Marvel’s LUKE CAGE, I found AUDRIE & DAISY quietly waiting to be selected in the Recently Added tab. This documentary on sexual assault and the ensuing cyber-hazing in American high schools is not only brutally topical, but oddly untapped. There have been countless news reports, interviews and journalistic pieces on campus rape, but AUDRIE & DAISY is a little more concerned with the fallout that can occur online, especially at a pre-college level, and the way small towns form an echo chamber of slut-shaming.
In a powerful portrait of two different cases, viewers get to witness audio recordings of rapists admitting their crimes, local sheriffs victim-blaming, and innocent girls transforming into hardened suicide-survivors. The cases of the titular victims and a handful of other girls are all disturbingly similar in their culmination, but directors Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen never find the assured footing to balance their stories. The core issue is that only one of the titular characters is still alive, and so their respective portraits feel unbalanced. AUDRIE & DAISY feels like it could have been two separate episodes of a much larger project, and this lack of depth is its fundamental weakness.
Like, it’s not okay that this is the only recent film I can think of that tackles this subject
The case of Audrie is told with incredible confidence, locking the viewer in tightly and making it clear that this is in no way going to be a pleasant ride. The use of audio recordings and animations certainly aide this part of the story, and the fact that each talking head interview is accompanied with compelling B-roll makes for an engaging watch. Unfortunately, Daisy’s story feels like it has been ripped straight out of another project.
There’s significant profundity in this second case, and the eventual portrait that is painted of this innocent soul is absolutely soul crushing, but the fact of the matter remains that it patently feels like I’m watching a different film.
Where Audrie’s narrative feels like a tragedy marred by the use of social media, Daisy’s story is far broader in scope. The transition between these two stories is equally clunky, introducing a third victim only to bring her back into the foreground near the final ten minutes. Daisy’s case is thick, and layered with intrigue and ethically despicable behavior. Sadly, the interviews never dig deep enough. Seeing an officer of the law defend four rapists in an interview is absolutely shocking, but we never take that extra step. AUDRIE & DAISY is fantastic with introducing what’s wrong with our system, but doesn’t spend much time trying to figure out how to fix it.
I think the final 20 minutes of this doc are an alternate ending to LIFE IS STRANGE
Certainly anyone who has ever questioned the rape allegations of a minor must watch AUDRIE & DAISY. The fact of the matter remains that this is one of very few documentaries to tackle an extremely pertinent subject. It’s a shame that Shenk and Cohen never act more confrontational and don’t find a clear footing for their documentary’s aesthetics. Their message is so noble that I can’t fault them for their mistakes, but what is an eye-opening piece could have been a real game changer with a little more time and research. AUDRIE & DAISY deserves a more frustrated camera, a more visceral desire to heal the world. In its current state, it is a desperate plea, an important issue crying to be recognized, but it should have been a traumatized retaliation.