An American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020) Review

True Crime Documentaries are a dime a dozen on Netflix at the moment, so this one will have to be something special to stand out.

Certificate: 15

Director: Jenny Popplewell

Starring: Chris Watts, Shanann Watts

Genre: True Crime, Documentary

Runtime: 82 Minutes

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewed by Pearl

Using mostly recovered footage and footage from the family’s social media sites, this true crime documentary tells the story of Shanann Watts who disappeared in 2018 when she was 38 years old.

I love the way that this Documentary was presented. There were no formal style interviews, or narrated script at all. Everything is done using recovered footage that was used at the time or footage they posted on their social media. It really helps you get to know the people involved and really empathise with what was going on, on screen. But for a documentary, this does seem like a bit of a strange way to present the story. If it is the crime and police procedural aspects of these kinds of shows and films that you really enjoy then I don’t think this will be for you. This documentary focuses very much on the personal aspects of the story, not the crime aspects.

The use of text messages to tell the story is also a good choice to give the audience a good sense of who the victim was and what she was going through. It is these messages that are used almost in lieu of a narrator to give us some idea of the backstory between Shanann and Chris. I think it is the backstory that suffers the most from not having any narration or voiceover, meaning there is a lot of time with just dead air.

This is a heart-breaking story like a lot of the true crime documentaries that we get from Netflix. I just wasn’t a huge fan of how this one was presented and found my attention wavering quite a bit. Whether that is the fault of this particular documentary or the fact that Netflix releases about a billion of these things a year remains to be seen.

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