‘The Asunta Case’ Review: Netflix True Crime Miniseries Is Confusing, Infuriating, & Intriguing


There’s a huge difference between crime dramas and true crime dramas. Films and shows with entirely fictional narratives centered around a heinous crime serve as a mirror for society. Since the viewer doesn’t have to think about whether or not the events presented before them have happened in real life, they can analyze what they have to say about humanity. On the flip side, films and shows based on real-life stories arrive with the intention of making us introspect about the human condition, but they eventually turn their audience into the most judgmental beings in existence. Instead of putting ourselves in the shoes of the perpetrator or the victim, we distance ourselves from the characters and dissect them from our moral standpoint. In doing so, we don’t learn anything from the viewing experience; we just feel glad that we are neither the victim nor the perpetrator. The Asunta Case furthers this trend with its infuriatingly ambiguous narrative.

Netflixs’s The Asunta Case revolves around the mysterious murder of its titular character, Asunta Basterra. While driving on a dirt road near Santiago de Compostela, two drunk individuals find the body of the titular girl and report it to the police. Based on a missing persons report filed by Rosario Porto and Alfonso Basterra, it’s confirmed that Asunta was their adopted daughter. After breaking the news to the parents, officers Rios and Cristina head over to the divorced parents’ house in Teo since it is very close to the spot where Asunta’s body was found. A strand of twine, which looks similar to the ones that were used to tie up Asunta, causes Rios to assume that maybe the parents are involved in the child’s murder. The investigating judge, Malvar, thinks that’s enough to send Alfonso and Rosario to jail. However, since the evidence is so sparse, the case becomes convoluted with each passing minute and eventually culminates in a trial in the court of public opinion.

I have to mention this upfront: the murder of Asunta is an unsolved case. And much like every other unsolved case out there, the ambiguous conclusion to the investigation creates a fertile ground for conspiracy theories. Now, the duality of The Asunta Case is that it does want to talk about how the law enforcement authorities, the law, and the media can unite to form a narrative that may or may not have anything to do with the truth. It shows how journalists and the investigating officers contorted the facts according to what they thought about Alfonso and Rosario and strayed from the mission to find Asunta’s murderer. However, the writers use the vague nature of the case to subject Asunta, Alfonso, and Rosario to another round of character assassination. Do they deserve that? I don’t know. What I do know for a fact is that nobody—not the viewers, not the writers, not the directors, and certainly not the people involved in the case—is sure about whether or not Alfonso, Asunta, and Rosario should be subjected to this scrutiny every other year (yes, there are several shows based on this). Yet, we do this dance because, as mentioned before, the only thing that’s better than looking inward is pointing at others and telling ourselves that we are better than them.

If you can get past this discomforting aspect of The Asunta Case, I think you’ll find it to be fairly intriguing. The cinematography in the whole miniseries is functional. The same goes for the editing. And that allows you to focus on the narrative instead of the filmmaking. There are a few split-diopter shots here and there, but the directors never swing for the fences, thereby keeping the tone and feel of the miniseries quite grounded. I have seen a lot of courtroom scenes in national as well as international movies and shows. The one in this miniseries is quite educational, as it’s not overly dramatized to influence the opinion of the viewers. I am not sure if this is how it actually happens in Spain, but I do think that this is how trials should be conducted all over the world. The hair and make-up, the production design, the casting, the score—all of it exudes a high level of professionalism. And I would’ve loved to appreciate it more if the creators of the miniseries didn’t take a moral stance. If you look at it closely, they clearly exonerate the law enforcement authorities and present them in a sympathetic light, while treating Alfonso and Rosario like monsters. I understand that it’s difficult to not pick a side in a case like this, but if it is that difficult to be neutral regarding an unsolved case, maybe it’s best to leave it to the real-life investigators and representatives of the law instead of starting another cycle of rumor-mongering.

The cast of The Asunta Case is truly fantastic. Candela Pena is the best of the lot. She imbues Rosario with a sort of helplessness and hypocrisy that makes it really hard to get a reading on her. Every time Pena appears on the screen, she’ll force you to wonder about her intent. Much like Pena, Tristan Ulloa is hard to read as well. Yes, he gets to lash out or act arrogantly. But he always keeps Alfonso in the realm of doubt. Carlos Blanco and Maria Leon are great. Their chemistry and camaraderie are palpable. Even though they are cops, they make it really hard to unequivocally hate on them because it seems like they don’t have a dishonest bone in their bodies. Seeing them treat Rosario with such empathy will confuse the hell out of one’s ACAB mind. Javier Gutierrez, though, emanates pure evil. Yes, he gets a few scenes with the character’s old, amnesiac father. But the way he injects all his dialogue with a sense of insidiousness is what makes him truly despicable. Francesc Orella, Alicia Borrachero, and Judith Fernandez are quite impactful during the scenes where they sincerely defend Alfonso and Rosario. Iris Whu is kept out of the limelight, despite being the center of the miniseries, which is odd. The rest of the supporting cast, which ranges from the witnesses to the jury, is extremely good.

Is The Asunta Case worth a watch, though? To be honest, no. You’re probably better off skipping this one. Just because the craft on display is competent doesn’t mean that you should put your morals on the back burner and keep the fire of conspiracy theories alight. These are real lives we are talking about. It shouldn’t be used for our entertainment. People went through hell when the case in question was unfolding in real-time. Those lives were analyzed and tossed around when the 2016 documentary, El caso Asunta, was released. The same happened when Lo Que La Verdad Esconde: Caso Asunta was made. And now, the Netflix series is aiming to do the same while pretending that it actually wants to talk about how the media is wrong for talking about unsolved murder cases. The Wikipedia page on the murder of Asunta Basterra is highly detailed. Give it a read if you are interested in the facts. If you don’t want Asunta’s soul to rest, feel free to watch the Netflix miniseries.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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