Depp v Heard review – Amber and Johnny make for profoundly depressing television
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in the Fairfax County circuit courthouse in May 2022. Photograph: Steve Helber/AP
This documentary about the Johnny Depp–Amber Heard legal battle aims for neutrality. But it’s a gruesome exercise in wringing entertainment from a case about domestic violence
In 2019, Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation, after Heard wrote an article published in the Washington Post in which she referred to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”. In 2020, the actor lost a separate libel case in the UK against the Sun, which had called him a “wife beater” in print. The US defamation hearing took place in 2022 in Virginia, and the jury ruled that Depp had been defamed by Heard. It also decided that in one matter, Depp had defamed Heard, but the verdict was widely viewed as a victory for Depp and a loss for his ex-wife.
It was a sorry, gruesome spectacle that played out on social media, in no small part thanks to the decision of the judge to allow cameras in the courtroom. Channel 4’s documentary Depp v Heard is on hand to rehash it, remix it and serve it up again, under a thin veneer of commentary about how odd it was that a court case, which centred on whether domestic violence had taken place or not, proved to be catnip to a salivating audience.