Dear Child review: mystery and drama from Germany

Naila Schuberth and Sammy Schrein in Dear Child

Dear Child (Liebes Kind) tells a mysterious story about a man who got away with kidnapping women for 13 years, the woman who finally escaped from him, and two brainwashed children he raised.

Dear Child begins in the enclosed prison of a home the kidnapper created for his “family.” Everything was done on a schedule and had to be exactly right or there would be punishment. Each time “Papa” entered the underground bunker where they lived, everyone rushed to him with palms outspread to show they had no weapons.

Kim Riedle in Dear Child
Is this really Lena?

The family in the bunker was Mama/Lena (Kim Riedle), 12 year old Hannah (Naila Schuberth) and her younger brother Jonathan (Sammy Schrein). The children had to do everything perfectly, as did their mama. They were under constant video surveillance.

Then Lena clonked Papa on the head, grabbed his keys, and ran. Hannah followed her, but Jonathan stayed behind. In nothing but a nightgown, Nina ran through the forest and was hit by a car.

The police came, an ambulance came. Nina was taken to a hospital and Hannah went with her.

Hans Löw in Dear Child

Gerd (Hans Löw), a depressed and disheveled cop, had been searching for Lena for 13 years. He was good friends with Lena’s parents, Karin (Julika Jenkins) and Matthias (Justus von Dohnányi). When Gerd saw the report about a blonde woman of the right age found in a remote location, he called Matthias and told him it might be Lena.

Justus von Dohnányi and Julika Jenkins in Dear Child

Matthias and Karin took off for the hospital immediately without waiting for confirmation. The woman there was not Lena. Both of them had scars from their 13 years of not knowing what happened to their daughter that affected their responses to the new information.

From this beginning, the 6 part series was launched. Who was the woman in the hospital? Why was Hannah’s behavior and story so peculiar? Was the dead man in the bunker Papa?

Matthias and Karin turned out to actually be Hannah and Jonathan’s grandparents. They reacted very differently to the idea of bringing the two children home with them. Where was Lena? Who had fathered these two children? Someone seemed to have video cameras everywhere. That became relevant as the story went forward.

Haley Louise Jones in Dear Child

The cop in charge of the new case was Aida (Haley Louise Jones), although Gerd continued to be involved. She found the bunker and Jonathan. She discovered evidence of many women who had been forced into the role of Mama/Lena after the passing of the real Lena. The one who got away was named Jasmin.

Stories about men who abuse women are not my favorite genre. This one succeeded by minimizing the abuse and emphasizing the psychological aspects. The man was never the focus, only the woman and the two children. Jasmin was empowered to act in her own behalf, and that was good. The series remained mysterious and hard to outguess to the end. New secrets and reveals in every episode kept things interesting.

The two children did an excellent job as examples of mind controlled little automatons. Their behavior, the way they communicated and thought, was one of the more intriguing parts of this series to me. The slow way the therapists and police gained information from the children was an important aspect of the mystery.

Isabel Kleefeld directed 3 of the episodes. She also produced. It’s streaming on Netflix.

I thought the series was well done, but I’m not going to recommend it for everyone. It’s gruesome and would be triggering for some people. If you do choose to watch it, please share your reactions in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Dear Child review: mystery and drama from Germany”

  1. Watching with two episodes to go. It’s gripping. Not that gruesome to me, though the face could be for some people. I think that was where the story went off the rails. The glass used to make snow globes isn’t that thick. You couldn’t use it to inflict that sort of damage. If you did somehow do it, it would take time and a lot of strength.

  2. christopher swaby

    i loved this series, binging it in a day. i didnt find it gruesome – the facial wounds werent presented salaciously as they would likely have been in an American series. i agree with the adjective used in the first comment: gripping. my partner, who seldom is fully engaged by anything we watch, even when she chooses the show, was on the edge of her seat throughout the season. my favorite German series since “Dark.”

      1. christopher swaby

        my apologies. i thought you were referring to the cut up face of the man in the morgue. i agree 100 that the kidnapping and rape, even had the victim been a male, is gruesome.

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