TV Review: ‘The Clearing’

Review based on the first two episodes.

Now this is a real thick slice of bleak to experience off the back of life-action cartoon Fast X. We got a jump on new Disney+ mini-series The Clearing, a grim depiction of child-abducting cults in rural Australia that is immediately terrifying and engaging. All the more disturbing, it is loosely based on real events, with ‘The Family’ having operating for an upsetting amount of time. The cast featuring Teresa Palmer, Miranda Otto and Guy Pearce are all strong enough to make some of this potentially larger-than-live characters feel believable./

We follow two narratives, the first being our introduction to the series. Our point of view character is a young girl making her way home from school before being snatched by a van of people. Drugged and with her hair bleached, she’s given a new name and told this is her family now. She’s among a dozen other children of different ages and told that her mother will be visiting her soon. In any case of child abduction, the most upsetting thing is imaging the fear and confusion of the victim and this aspect of the show is very difficult to watch. Imprisoned, manipulated and physically abused as discipline, any moment in which Sara stands up to her captures and resists their indoctrination is inspiring, but tainted by the knowledge that this is not going to end well.

We alternate between Sara’s ordeal and an older woman, a parent who has heard the reports of an abducted child. She’s immediately deeply affected by this news and it begins to trigger PTSD symptoms. She begins to develop paranoia and suspects that the white van seen near her house is the same one reported on being seen near the recent abduction, but struggles to be heard. Whatever her past experiences are, they seem to mirror this recent attack.

To say more would be a spoiler, and this is an experience that needs to be seen playing out in the story to appreciate how each of the storyline affects the other. This psychological drama has given us a set-up that conjures up feelings of dread and foreboding. We’re not looking forward to find out what is going to happen per se, but we’re going to be sticking it out for a sense of closure. It makes good use of the Australian landscape, capturing the dusty dryness of rural roadways and employs a cool colour palette that effectively captures the period being depicted. It’s distinctly Australian without leaning into steretypes.

It’s hard to recommend something that is going to be triggering for some viewers, but this could well be the next big psychological thriller.