Michael Barnett screaming in 'The Curious Case of Natalia Grace'

Max Has the Most Off-the-Wall Docuseries You Need To Watch

If you went to Max this weekend to watch the disappointing documentary Bama Rush—you know, the documentary wherein director Rachel Fleit relates rushing for a sorority to having alopecia when she should have just … made a doc on alopecia—you were probably curious about what else was on Max for you to lose your mind while watching.

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After Bama Rush, I wanted to see what else Max had to offer by way of baffling true stories, and there are some interesting documentaries and docuseries you should dive into. The one that grabbed my attention was The Curious Case of Natalia Grace.

You might remember this case as the one that is essentially the plot of the film Orphan. A young girl was adopted by a family, they realized she was an adult pretending to be a child, and she attempted to kill them. Or at least that’s what the Barnett family said. Natalia Barnett is a little person who was adopted by the Barnett family in 2010, at which time they believed her to be six years old.

Through a series of frankly sketchy moves on the Barnett side of things, Natalia’s birth certificate was changed in court to say that she was born in 1989 instead of 2003, and then she went to live on her own so that the Barnett family could be rid of their responsibilities. Throughout the docuseries, we see the story that the Barnett family weaved through Michael Barnett’s telling of it, and even then, most of us are not on his side.

The fascinating thing about The Curious Case of Natalia Grace is how it unfolds the “reality” of Natalia’s case. Her side of the story hasn’t been told quite yet, so it’s the perfect time to watch part one.

Natalia Grace’s story isn’t over yet

I’ll be honest, the end of the docuseries isn’t that fun because it’s unfinished. We only hear MIchael Barnett’s side and no one else. But Investigation Discovery has announced that a series from Natalia Barnett’s point of view is coming out later this summer. Maybe that will clarify literally anything because when I tell you that The Curious Case of Natalia Grace was confusing, I mean it. And it was designed to be that way because Michael Barnett is clearly lying, and we watch him lie between two interviews.

The case itself is not straightforward. It’s one in which a child was adopted and those who adopted her didn’t want to take care of her and her disabilities, and instead of doing the right thing, they claimed she was a con-artist who scammed them. Kristine and Michael Barnett claimed that Natalia was not six years old but that she was actually 22. When they got a doctor to back up their claim, a judge ruled to change Natalia’s birth certificate and the family abandoned her in an apartment on her own. So the case was about abandoning an adult with special needs, when the reality is that Natalia was not 22 years old.

It’s a case of people refusing to listen to the facts and instead listening to a rich white couple deemed as “good” people. And it goes off the rails because of Michael Barnett.

You, too can watch a grown man ugly cry-lying

Michael Barnett somehow thinks he is a victim. There’s a point in the documentary where Barnett says that he was sexually abused because his ex-wife Kristine Barnett would not have sex with him. Yes, you read that right. And then he says that he got addicted to porn and his wife mocked him for it, all while ignoring that the victim in this story very much seems to be Natalia Barnett.

This family is so in their own heads about their lives and their image that they are ignoring the needs of this young girl, and seeing Michael Barnett sobbing because of what Kristine Barnett did to him—all things that he agreed to—is frustrating. Natalia Barnett did not agree to be abandoned in an apartment; she was manipulated. By the end of the documentary, Michael Barnett is sobbing and crying that he can’t see his kids who he willingly gave up because his ex-wife said that if she got full custody, he could sleep with her. That’s the kind of stuff you’re dealing with in The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, and it’s wild to unpack.

The Barnetts show their true colors throughout the docuseries and it is a fascinating watch. If you’re searching for your next true crime obsession, dive into the series streaming on Max.

(featured image: Investigation Discovery)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.