A 14-year-old teenager pens an essay for school. When her teacher reads it, alarms bells go off. The following day, a social worker shows up at the school with a single purpose in mind: to find out how much stock can be placed in the content of the teenager’s essay, and herein lies the central theme to this Danish series “Cry Wolf“, which premieres on Movistar+ this coming Thursday, March 16th, calling into focus the complexities associated with cases involving domestic violence. Because, although the teenager’s essay narrates a detailed account of an aggression by a man who the teenager herself explains is her step-father and despite the palpable anguish on her face from the pain and fear she has repressed for far too long; admitting her step-father’s criminal record for similar offences, even in the face of all this evidence, the social worker cannot establish beyond all reasonable doubt whether what the girl has written about is true. The adolescent shows no visible marks on her person to corroborate the aggression described in her essay, and her mother denies her daughter’s claims, saying she’s lying, she doesn’t like her step-father and that’s the sole reason she wrote what she did, that it’s nothing more than an act of rebelliousness from an adolescent who refuses to accept her newly-found family situation. But, who’s telling the truth here?
The role of social worker is played by Danish actor Bjarne Henriksen, a familiar face to fans of Nordic series, especially as the victim’s (Nanna Larsen) father in “The Killing”. Lars, (Henriksen) cannot know for sure, and at the risk of making a decision that could have legal implications further down the line, he decides to trust his gut instinct and requests his boss to immediately remove the girl and her brother from her parents’ care until they can get to the bottom of what exactly is going on. From this point onwards, “Cry Wolf” brings into focus the complexities involved in cases of this nature, reflecting the web of fear, distrust and denial as it gradually weaves its way into the very fabric of the family, developing each participant’s perspective, with the knock-on effect that all the characters find themselves on heavily-nuanced ground. The figure of the social worker is the principal driving force in this tale and, by virtue of the protocol he adopts, provides a rationale to a highly-emotionally charged plight, as audiences find themselves trying to walk in the shoes of each family member, whose collective and individual fates hinge upon the decisions he takes, despite lacking all the required information he needs to do so.
The fact that our protagonist is a methodological professional who follows procedure to the letter and rigorously confirming every last detail also helps the series to maintain a steady pace, advancing by degrees. Screenwriter, Maja Jul Larsen (“Borgen”, “Follow The Money”), treats every situation with painstaking care, carefully studying the actors’ expressions to discover whether therein lies the truth, while at the same time digging ever-deeper into the traumatic experience of what it must be like to find oneself in a situation such as this. “Cry Wolf” pockets the deliberately meditative pace of Danish crime series to construct a family drama, harrowing at times, terrifying at others, always preserving the mystery behind divulging who is actually telling the truth to hook audiences, reeling them in and escorting us through the varying stages of a process with agonizing repercussions for all involved. Meanwhile, the series carefully scrutinizes the show-down between individual rights and the state’s authority to intervene. As far as the girl’s mother is concerned, the government is taking her children away from her. The teenager, however, sees the state as her protector, while for the social worker it’s critical to unequivocally establish that his decision is watertight. After all, if he drops the ball on this one he’ll find himself cast into the eye of one major and all-consuming storm.