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girl in the picture

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‘Girl in the Picture’ review: The most shocking true crime documentary of the year

Disgusting, surprising, and compelling.

Girl in the Picture examines a decades spanning mystery that begins with the supposed victim of a hit and run accident. When Tonya Hughes was found in Oklahoma in 1990, authorities knew something was off. Little did they know their investigation would take them back to the 1960s and continue well into the 21st century.

Director Skye Bergman (Abducted in Plain Sight) does not try anything new production-wise. Girl in the Picture has the expected interviews and music. Background re-enactments bring the narration to life. It is the story where Girl in the Picture stands out. It is a grisly tale filled with sex, violence, and assumed identities. But it is far from the “normal” true crime story with these elements.

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The documentary is filled with twists and turns that will keep audiences guessing. Girl in the Picture is filled with disgusting revelations. Nothing is ever done for shock value but each new wrinkle is impactful.  As the investigation deepens, the timeline jumps all over the place. It could easily get confusing, but Bergman presents the material in a way that prevents viewers from getting lost. Instead, Girl in the Picture places those watching with the investigators. This makes each failure more disappointing, each success more exhilarating. 

The interviews are the standard fare found in the genre, but the subjects are more interesting. Each one is emotionally invested and filled with passion. This is less noticeable towards the tail end of Girl in the Picture, but these interviewees have also spent less time on the case. It is hard for true crime documentaries to separate themselves from the pack. Many are content to follow the same successful formula. The Girl in the Picture does allow for some tropes, but conveys a story people will not forget – no matter how hard they try.

Girl in the Picture comes to Netflix July 6


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