Our review of A Friend of The Family, an edifying story of a sordid news story, on OCS on demand

Adapted from a true story, this miniseries relates the descent into hell, in the 1970s, of an American family who fell under the influence of a pervert and pedophile. With Anna Paquin and Jake Lacy.

Pocatello, Idaho, 1975. The Brobergs, Bob, Mary Ann and their three little daughters, become friends with the Berchtolds, their new neighbors. Average Americans imbued with petty-bourgeois morality and religious fervor, as gullible as they come and welcoming as they should be, they fall under the spell of this rather special family, especially the father, whose charm and charisma are undeniable. Until…

Inspired by a true story, A Friend of the Family traces the descent into hell of ordinary people victims of an extraordinary criminal, at a time when profiling techniques are only beginning to emerge, where the FBI is only beginning to experiment with them, and where the terms “narcissistic pervert”, “manipulative » and “pedophile” still only appear in rare psychiatric files.

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Jan, the eldest of the Broberg girls, was kidnapped twice by Bob Berchtold – the first time at the age of 12, the second at fourteen – before her parents, under his influence, truly became aware of the extreme seriousness of the facts and that the feds decide to take the lead. Bob Berchtold committed suicide in 2005, as his second trial approached.

A chilling story

Jan, still alive, recounted the facts on several occasions. In a testimonial book co-written with his mother in 2003. In a documentary adapted from this same story in 2019 by Netflix. And in this miniseries, ordered by the American platform Peacok in 2020. Its nine episodes, created and produced by Nick Antosca (Hannibal , Teen Wolf…), customary for psychological and fear thrillers, are in keeping with the horror they tell: chilling.

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Jake Lacy (The Office ) portrays a devious, obsessive character, eminently sympathetic at first glance, of remarkable intelligence, even with a smile on his face whatever the circumstances. The Oscar winner Anna Paquin is remarkable in the role of the mother stuck between her small principles, her religion, her submission to her husband and soon to this amazing neighbor. Young McKenna Grace is perfect as Jan, the victim…

Of course, this series has flaws. Of course, it meets the expectations of fans of True Crime, very fashionable at the moment. Of course, she depicts with an insistence that some would consider too strong an America so devout, so naive and so easy to deceive that it borders on the stupid. It nonetheless offers an edifying spectacle of the havoc that a deviant personality can wreak on those around them.

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