Abducted in Plain Sight title

“Forgiveness is a tricky word. In my mind not forgiving somebody only puts up the jail cell kind of around you.”

Jan Broberg

Netflix’s love affair with true crime continues with this utterly bizarre case from the 1970s in which a young girl in small town Idaho was brainwashed, abducted and assaulted by Robert Berchtold, a neighbour and family friend. Twice. The most bewildering aspect of this story is the blind passivity of Jan’s parents. Their delay in reporting her disappearance seems almost criminal in its neglect, whilst a telephone recording of Jan’s mother barely reacting to Berchtold’s claim that her runaway 14-year-old has been involved in drugs and prostitution is baffling. In focusing on relaying the unbelievable events, the documentary fails adequately to interrogate how this happened on a personal, community or criminal justice level. Although the absolute candour of her parents is to be applauded, little introspection is found beyond an acknowledgement of Berchtold’s manipulative efforts to drive a wedge between them. The entire family’s involvement does allow the film to sidestep accusations of exploitation levelled at much of the genre, but its desire to confound overcomes any ability to educate the viewer or to examine the social constructs that allow such crimes to occur.