Is ‘Dear Child’ based on a true story?
(Credit: Netflix)

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Is ‘Dear Child’ based on a true story?

The German thriller television series Dear Child was released on Netflix on September 7th and has been lauded for its gripping storytelling with two-time Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla’s haunting soundtrack to boot. The story is harrowing enough that some viewers have wondered whether it is based on a true story. 

In Dear Child, Lena (played by Kim Riedle), along with her 12-year-old daughter Hannah (Naila Schuberth) and eight-year-old son Jonathan (Sammy Schrein), finds herself trapped in a windowless house, cut off from the outside world. A rigid routine controls their lives. Even their meals are controlled by the children’s father. Every time he enters their confined space, the children must line up, extending their hands to show they’re concealing nothing. 

However, everything changes the night Lena makes a daring escape, clad only in a nightgown. Her bid for freedom is short-lived, as a hit-and-run accident leaves her severely injured. Rushed to the hospital, Lena is accompanied by Hannah, who, though unharmed physically, begins to reveal troubling fragments of their life in captivity. Hospital staff alert the police, rekindling an old investigation into a 13-year-old missing person’s case. 

Fortunately, Dear Child is not based on a true story. While true crime cases bearing some similarities to the show’s premise have occurred, the events depicted in the series are entirely fictional and created for entertainment purposes. The six-episode tale is a product of the creative minds behind the show and was not inspired by real-life incidents.

However, Dear Child is an adaptation of the 2019 novel of the same name by Romy Hausmann. The English title of the series is a translation of the original German title, Liebes Kind

The director and head writer of the Netflix series, Isabel Kleefeld, was so captivated by the novel that she read it in one night and was immediately inspired to bring the story to the screen. “Dear Child is different in that the story is told from the victim’s perspective, never from the perpetrator’s perspective,” Kleefeld said in an interview with Die Woche. “That was also something special about the novel, which had a great attraction for us.”

While the series remains a faithful adaptation of the book, some creative liberties were taken to ensure its freshness. Speaking about how it was for her to watch her story come alive on screen, Haumann told Netflix, “I hope my readers feel like I did: There will be many things that are familiar from the book, and at the same time it will feel totally new. There also is, for example, a new character (Aida Kurt), who really excited me because she lives the complete opposite of the perpetrator’s imagination. It’s subtle and incredibly well told. Why didn’t I think of that?”

Dear Child is now streaming on Netflix.