Dear Child Season 1 Review – A gripping, twisty exploration of trauma

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 7, 2023 (Last updated: September 12, 2023)
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Dear Child Season 1 Review - A gripping, twisty exploration of trauma


It’s a heavy watch, but Dear Child is also a tightly constructed and engaging drama that it’s difficult to look away from until the end.

This review of the Netflix series Dear Child Season 1 does not contain spoilers.

The Germans aren’t exactly known for their good humor, and the Netflix original series Dear Child reinforces that idea across six grim episodes about the bond between a mother and her child even after years of trauma, abuse, captivity, and sexual violence.

Based on Romy Hausman’s novel of the same title, and directed by Julian Pörksen and Isabel Kleefeld, the show isn’t based on a true story but is definitely inspired by harrowing real-life accounts, and is treated with an appropriate level of seriousness. It isn’t a fun, laidback watch, but it is a captivating one.

Dear Child Season 1 review and plot summary

The plot revolves around a woman who has spent 13 years as the prisoner of a sadist who has forced her to play the role of another kidnapped woman and raise her two children, Hannah and Jonathan, entirely in isolation.

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“Lena” and her children live in a strict routine and in constant fear of their captor. However, the plot proper is kick-started when they manage to escape captivity and make it to hospital after a hit-and-run, re-opening an unsolved missing person case and sending the characters and audience down a twisty-turny path of no return.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is a grim setup, and remains grim throughout, managing to walk a fine line between slightly melodramatic plotting and a grounded sense of character and psychology.

But Dear Child is carefully calibrated for the contemporary binge-watch crowd, keeping the pacing extremely tight across six 40-ish-minute episodes. It’s a captivating drama, with just enough development to remain engaged as the story tosses and turns in ways both slightly predictable and not all that predictable at all.

It’s an age-old form of tension-building, questions without immediate answers, and the show holds onto its most crucial mysteries until the end. This makes it easy to remain curious and engaged and forgive any dalliances into soapier material, be that spats of overacting or more out-there swerves. It’s just a well-constructed show, overall, and it builds to almost a completely different experience by the end, as revelations continue to pile up and expectations continue to be upended.

Is Dear Child good or bad?

There will, inevitably, be some who just don’t buy into the plot, but it’s hard to deny how fundamentally well-constructed a show like Dear Child is. The twists and turns are at the very least rooted in real human drama, supplemented by strong performances and a compelling — if morbid — psychology.

And it’s a small investment of your time. I’ve said before that six episodes seem the ideal binge-watch length, and Dear Child mostly validates me by keeping its story lean, utilizing every minute of the runtime and not overstaying its welcome.

Is Dear Child worth watching?

Fans of psychological thrillers will be well-served here. The general premise might be familiar, but it goes in some surprising directions, and some very occasional deviations into telenovela-style plotting notwithstanding, it manages to engage for its entire runtime.

What did you think of Dear Child Season 1? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.

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Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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