OTT Review: The Netflix docuseries Sins of Our Mother

A true crime documentary on a shocking incident that took place in the US a few years ago… and since the main accused’s trial is supposed to start in January next year, the matter has been lent a shot of relevancy


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 6 Oct 2022, 11:13 PM

Last year, Netflix came out with House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, a fantastic docu series exploring the Burari deaths in the Indian capital. In 2018, in a Delhi suburb, 11 members of a family were found dead — they had all hung themselves, but it’s not what it really seemed like because apparently these people were actually seeking redemption and a better life when they underwent the motions of “taking their own life”. They had been brainwashed to such an extent that they believed they would not die; they would only emerge stronger.

House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths was a gritty, 3-episode series, each episode being less than 50 minutes. One could wrap up the series in two-and-a-half hours.

The new Netflix docu series Sins of Our Mother explores another mystifying — deeply disturbing — incident, which, yet again, throws light in how dangerous mind games can get when they cross over to the dark side of delusions. And it employs the same three-episode narrative, with none of the chapters exceeding 50 minutes — so it’s a wrap in under two-and-a-half hours.

In September 2019, 16-year-old Tylee Ashlyn Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua Jaxon went missing from Chandler, Arizona. Their disappearance was reported by their stepfather, Charles Vallow. Their mother Lori Vallow had by then left Charles — her fourth husband in a series of marriages — and was going around with Chad Daybell. She claimed that the two kids were fine and staying elsewhere, and that Charles’ misgivings were unfounded. She didn’t offer any more explanation, even as it — overnight — became a high-profile, explosive investigation.

So, what really did happen to the two kids? We probably know the answer to that, however mind-bending it may seem, as the series tracks the unbelievable life of Lori Vallow, using real-time footage from police, phone, CCTV and court records. Lori was married five times, and along the way she had three children — the eldest Colby in his 20s currently. She had always been a good and responsible mother, for who her children came first, even as she was not the most stable when it came to romantic attachments. It was only after she met the man who would go on to be her fifth husband that Lori’s personality disintegrated, as she became obsessed with some cult-like interpretations of her faith. There were voices in her head who then started telling her to kill people — so that they can be saved. Which is why I thought it was such a throwback to House of Secrets.

House of Secrets, however, starts out with the ‘incident’, and the rest of the series is an attempt to deconstruct what had happened. In Sins of Our Mother, the storytelling is more linear, and it follows the timeline that led to the unfolding of the gruesome events.

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