On February 21, 2024

The Movie Diary: Be careful what you wish for

There are several families who live in my neighborhood. Most are either retirees or younger couples with adolescent children. I know all of them somewhat but none of them deeply, meaning, I’ve had wonderful conversations and interactions with many of them over the years, but very few are coming over for drinks. 

One neighbor who lives down the street has two teenage daughters. I’ve seen the girls out and about over the years, usually playing soccer or gymnastics in their front yard. They seem like bright, well-adjusted kids.

I don’t know these girls or their parents other than to say hi when I happen to run by their house, or they happen to be walking their dog past mine. However, I am observant, and because of this, I’ve noticed things now and again. 

For instance, during the last school year, this family suddenly had another child in their home,  a young man who appeared to be around 16 years old. I’d see this new face in the mornings as I left for work or on the weekends when the family was gathered in the driveway. 

I contemplated what might lead to a new family member, but never understood the whole story until one afternoon when one of the daughters and this young man walked by my house. I happened to be heading out to get the mail as they passed by and when I overheard their conversation, I picked up on a distinct foreign accent coming from the boy.  

I then landed on the assumption that he was a foreign exchange student spending the school year with a host family. And while I never got confirmation for my theory, I did notice that the young man vanished soon after the school year ended. 

Over that school year, I would occasionally see the father of this family outside attending to his yard maintenance or washing his car. I noticed that he never looked happy. He had a sullen appearance most days and seemed to carry himself with an air of dejection. 

And then miraculously, when summer arrived, I noticed that he started walking the neighborhood several times a week. He’d stroll past my house talking on his cell phone, usually laughing with a big smile on his face, looking like he didn’t have a care in the world. 

I have no business making broad assumptions about other people’s lives, but if I were a betting man, I would wager that this dad spent the entire school year living in a state of heightened anxiety given that a good looking teenage boy from Europe was living under the same roof with his impressionable daughters. 

When I was in high school, my parents agreed to host a foreign exchange student through a local church program. I was 15 or 16 at the time and the young woman who was matched with us was 17. She was also from Sweden… and blond. 

I won’t mince words here, but I was the toast of my entire friend group in the lead-up to her arrival. 

Petra arrived at the beginning of the school year. My mother prepared a special bedroom for her with all the prerequisite items that any young woman would find endearing. (As excited as I was about having a teenage girl sleeping in the room next to me, my mother was more excited to think she could dote on a girl, having raised three boys.) 

Unfortunately, the dream scenario turned into a nightmare rather quickly. Petra rarely left her room, and on the occasions that she did, she was miserable. No matter what we did, it was wrong. After several weeks of her intense unhappiness, my parents contacted the agency that placed her, and had her moved to another family. 

We found out later that Petra went through that family and another one before being shipped back to Sweden. She caused so much chaos during her stay in the U.S. that the church had to reevaluate its exchange program. 

Chaos is also the main component of this week’s feature, “Lover, Stalker, Killer,” an intense documentary that examines a failed relationship and a missing woman. And while that may not sound intriguing initially, I promise you that this unique string of events will have you aghast.

Like any good documentary, “Lover, Stalker, Killer” creates more questions than answers as the story unfolds. But when the resolution hits, you will be praising God that it wasn’t you.

Check this one out if you love documentaries based on true crime. Just be prepared to rethink dating if you happen to be single.  

An implausible “B” for “Lover, Stalker, Killer,” now available to stream on Netflix.

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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