The latest big-budget docuseries from Netflix was directed by Chris Smith, who also directed Netflix’s Fyre documentary- another successful documentary that was very informative about the events of the failed Fyre Festival. Because of this, we expected great things to come from The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Madeleine, who was 3 years old at the time, was reported missing whilst on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007 and has remained a high-profile case ever since. The documentary first starts off with accurately describing a timeline of events that occurred on that awful night, in order for the audience to get a clear understanding of what exactly were the facts about what happened. There are also a plethora of statements from 120 hours of interviews from those who were either there at the time or those who took part in the investigations or were there during the days following her disappearance. The docuseries also included reenactments and archival new footage.
As well as presenting us with the facts, the docuseries also explores many of the theories surrounding the case. This includes kidnapping, human trafficking, involvement from the McCanns themselves and others. Even if some of the theories were explored more so than others, this is a great way for the docuseries to be more rounded and seemingly opinion-less which is as a documentary should be. This is also done whilst in keeping with chronological order which makes for a smoother documentary that anyone is able to keep up with and therefore doesn’t get the facts mixed up.
However the major pitfall of the show comes from the fact that it offers nothing new to the story- no new revelation or theories and it definitely doesn’t offer any new evidence. This was a huge let-down for the docuseries- it was expected to at least give some new insight just as the docuseries about Steven Avery had done in Making a Murderer. This was definitely apparent when looking back at the excitement that was surrounding the release of the series- perhaps even the makers of the show even noticed this which is why, at one point, Netflix considered cutting the 8-hour series to just an hour-long one-off and even thought about cutting it all together before deciding to just stick to the original 8-hour idea.
This decision led to the padding out of the show with pointless things such as the history of the tourism in the Algarve and accounts from journalists about how they waited for hours on end for new information and- much like the viewers of this documentary- they got nothing. The only real story was in the rehashing of the details most followers of the Madeleine McCann case already knew and made their own opinion about.