There’s always a moment at the beginning of any true crime documentary where you wonder: what’s going to happen to make this interesting? For the ranks of morbid voyeurs, mere murder or manslaughter isn’t enough – the story needs to have more twists and turns than Pac-Man’s heatmap. At least that’s what the genre expects; Expectations that Netflix’s latest offering,I just killed my fathertries to undermine.
“Why do you think it’s important to tell your story?” a disembodied voice asks a nervous, lanky-looking 18-year-old as he settles into a chair. The boy is Anthony Templet who just before the Covid pandemic (yes, that’s how I measure the time now) shot his father three times in the house they shared, killing him. “I just killed my father,” he tells 911 in a call so cold and emotionless you’ll think he can’t save our sympathies. But the show, which for some reason is being presented across three episodes rather than as a two-hour feature, is trying to do just that. Anthony’s troubled personal life, the forgotten injustices and hardships of his childhood, and the true nature of the victim’s despotism come under the filmmakers’ microscope and unravel a tricky self-defense argument.
At its best, this is a story that praises the Louisiana justice system for its compassion and nuance. A local reporter, somewhat politely, describes Louisiana’s “track record for the criminal justice system” as “not the best.” But the complex Templet case is a slick victory for good police work and law enforcement. His most notable irony is set forth by Anthony’s attorney. “He lived an incredibly hopeless life and nobody stepped in to help him,” said defense attorney Jarrett Ambeau. “Until he shot his father.”
But at heart, the question of whether you can shoot a bad father seems deeply American. There’s not a minute of the show’s run time to question whether a household consisting of a sensitive, socially isolated teenager and his abusive father should have contained multiple loaded guns. What’s more, the project is so intent on giving glowing praise to the local justice system that it doesn’t raise the rudest question about Anthony’s treatment. He is a middle-class white boy who has been safely taken into custody and treated with enormous care by the system. The same police force in Baton Rouge had just a few years earlier killed a black man, Alton Sterling, who had been charged with the felony of selling counterfeit CDs outside a supermarket.
And for even more complexity, the case could have been compared to the fatal 2020 shooting of another 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, a right-wing causa celebre, was found not guilty at his criminal trial. For very different reasons, the system has mobilized to protect these two teenagers, and while one may be a victory for callousness and the other a victory for empathy, the real question should be: why? What’s up with these two middle-class white kids who have access to heavy weapons that make the system rally around them?
For all his failure to ask the more important questions, I just killed my father continues to be an interesting part of Netflix’s True Crime Award odyssey. As thematically linked accompaniment to last month’s hit girl in the picture, which twirled and twirled every few minutes until its viewers felt like a tangle of fairy lights, is a sleeker, more introspective project. The only shame then is that it answers the easy questions but doesn’t even raise the difficult ones.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/i-just-killed-my-dad-review-netflix-anthony-templet-b2140686.html I Just Killed My Dad Review: There are some big, bright questions this documentary doesn’t ask