Netflix is back at it with another of its true-crime documentaries. On this occasion, we are here to review Sins of Our Mother, a documentary based on the case of Lori Vallow, and how her delusions took her family on a path full of death and tragedy. The case was followed closely by the media around 2020 when Lori and her husband, Chad Daybell, were finally caught for the disappearance of their sons. This is a tragic and scary story about how obsession and twisted faith can become some of the most terrifying things on Earth.
Sins of Our Mother is directed by Skye Borgman and tells the story of Lori Vallow. A mother who apparently seemed like the perfect mother, but who actually descended quickly into an abyss where her faith was so strong that it took her to take the lives of her own kids. It is a nefarious case, and it follows a series of television series and documentaries that have been following terrible cases inside the Mormon community. The Church of the Last Days Saints is a very important church in the USA, but it seems its secrets are quickly coming out into the mainstream.
Of course, it would be disingenuous to paint the entire church, which surely is filled with amazingly good people, just because some rotten apples decided to do some truly awful things. Nevertheless, it is clear that these documentaries and TV series coming so close to each other might transform the way the mainstream sees the church in the upcoming years. We can only hope it never goes out of control and that the exposure of these situations doesn’t create another more dangerous one.
Sins of Our Mother could be classified as a very standard documentary. Actually, from the ones that Netflix has been releasing lately, it could be the least impressive of the bunch. The documentary follows the standard guidelines. It has a series of interviews with some people related to the case and then uses archive footage to fill the gaps between the testimonies. There is really nothing here that stands out in terms of presentation or in terms of the actual content of the documentary.
Sins of Our Mother is basically just a summary of the case’s events, one after the other. There’s very little analysis around why or how Lori and Chad did this. There is no discovery whatsoever. It would be shorter and more entertaining to just read the Wikipedia article on the case. Because neither Lori nor Chad are part of the interviews, there is actually nothing interesting for the rest of the interviewees to say because everything just comes from their own based point of view. Lori and Chad did awful things, but we never got the chance to explore them.
The documentary always stays on the surface, which is very sad, but it is something normal in this type of production. They often don’t have the time or access to interview the criminals and ask them the hard questions that we all want to be answered. Instead, we need to take what we get and just be content with it. Netflix really has something excellent going on with these documentaries. They are easy and fast to do, and for a streaming service always hungry for content, it feels like the best solution.
However, there are better documentaries being done on YouTube by single individuals, and that is one of the disappointing points of the production. From the depth of the research to the way the interviews are conducted and the way the case is presented, everything just feels like a series of data blocks being thrown at the screen. There is really no passion or feeling behind any of these episodes. The story is terrifying, for sure, but it doesn’t hit the heartstrings as hard as it should.
Besides the clear shallowness of it all, the documentary also chooses to present Lori’s son, Colby, as our main point of view. Although he seems like a good guy, he was recently arrested on charges of sexual assault. However, his testimony always comes off as weird because he is so detached from the case that it seems weird to have him as our main entry into the whole thing. For most of his testimony, Colby just says how he had nothing to do with him and that it was his mother’s problem. When things finally hit the fan, he has nothing of value to say other than he is sad about the events.
None of this is to say that Colby’s feelings are not valid. Of course, they are. It is his family we are talking about here. However, when it comes to the educational and entertaining factors of the documentary, those feelings are not enough. It is more a lack in the filmmaking department than anything else. The documentary doesn’t really know how to reach for those feelings because it doesn’t have access to them or didn’t do the proper work to display them on screen.
Sins of Our Mother is a fine enough documentary, but it says nothing that you could not find by doing a Google search. It will also take less time to do just that. As it is, the documentary is just one more on the list of Netflix’s true crime machine. It would be nice to really see one documentary go all the way into its subject and reveal things that we just couldn’t find anywhere else. There needs to be a justification for the existence of these documentaries, and sadly, Sins of Our Mother doesn’t have one.