Unbelievable, a gutting eight-part miniseries on Netflix, begins on the worst night in Marie Adler’s (Kaitlyn Dever) life. In 2008, the 18-year-old is living at a house for at-risk youth in Washington State. One evening, a man breaks into the house and rapes her at knife-point hours.
The incident is incredibly traumatizing. Yet Marie’s loved ones and police detectives alike doubt whether it really happened, causing Marie to question the events, too. It wouldn’t be until 2011, when two detectives in Colorado began investigating a series of similar assaults, that Marie would be vindicated.
Scene for scene, Unbelievable is based on a true story laid out in a Pulitzer Prize-winning article by ProPublica and the Marshall Project. So that means somewhere, the real Marie is processing the fact that a fictional rendering of her life is being seen — and appreciated – by people around the world.
How accurate is Marie’s story in Unbelievable?
Unbelievable unspools the story laid out in T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” without fanfare.
So, for the most part, everything that happens to Marie in the show did happen to the actual Marie. She was raised in the foster care system. At 18, living on her own for the first time, Marie was raped by a stranger. She went to the police with her story, but was not believed. After recanting her testimony, Marie had to pay the city $500 and leave her home for at-risk youth. Three years later, Marie’s testimony was proven accurate when her rapist was caught in Colorado.
The main discrepancy between the article and the TV show? The show suggests that Marie tried to die by suicide; the article does not.
Unbelievable creators significantly fictionalized the main characters’ traits to protect the real figures’ privacy, given the show’s sensitive subject matter. Aside from Marie, all the characters are renamed. But the two Maries — Marie of Unbelievable and the real Marie — are separate entities. While preparing for preparing for the role, Dever did not consult Marie.
So, where is Marie now?
The ending of Unbelievable is optimistic and open-ended. Winning $150,000 in a lawsuit against Lynnwood WA, Marie gets the fuel she needs to leave Washington and start anew. She takes off in her car.
The real Marie, now roughly 29, is a long-haul truck driver. “It seems like every time I talk to her she's in a different state. She is strong. And she is resilient," Miller said of Marie in an NPR interview.
Finally, she consulted on the Netflix series. Marie sold her life rights for the project. "[Marie] knew that if people were familiar with her story, it was less likely that the same thing would happen to someone else," Ken Anderson told The Hollywood Reporter.
Will Marie watch Unbelievable?
Marie remains private and has not done any press for the series. But according to Anderson’s interview in The Hollywood Reporter, she plans to watch.
“I spoke with Marie a couple weeks ago and she had seen the trailer and the word she used was that the trailer was 'phenomenal' and hard to watch. But she decided that she did want to watch the whole series,” Anderson said.