I love you, now die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter (2019), directed by Erin Lee Carter, is a riveting two hour documentary which reads like a whodunit mystery about the famous suicide texting trial that scandalized America society and the world.
Carr has woven together many visual elements to create a compelling two-part documentary where teen suicide meets anguish, misery, heartbreak and the courts of legal and public opinion. The documentary is well-crafted making use of diverse angle shots, editing techniques, time lapse footage, first person interviews, third person interviews, archival and social media footage, still photography, superimposed images, and incorporates footage shot over a span of several years to create a compelling and powerful film about an egregious crime. It recounts the suffering and pain of Conrad Roy III, his relationship with Michelle Carter and his family, his previous suicide attempts, the impact of his suicide on his family, the culpability of Michelle Carter and a penetrative examination and analysis of her thoughts, psyche and mental health leading up to and following the suicide of her boyfriend. Did her mental health impinge on her ability to know the difference between right and wrong? How about her level of maturity and her decision making ability as a 17-year-old with a not well developed frontal cortex? Michelle Carter and her immediate family declined to take part in the documentary and present their side of the story; She opted to have her case tried by judge and not by jury, and refused to take the stand in her own defense. Do her actions imply guilt? You be the judge.
Carr has juxtaposed the narrative of the crime through the Massachusetts criminal justice system presenting both sides of the case and the legal arguments mounted by the prosecution and defense team against the backstory of the victim and perpetrator revealed through their text messaging and social media postings which are filled with twists and turns and reveal their toxic, unhealthy relationship.
It’s a balanced documentary for the filmmaker explores the crime from the perspective of the victim and the perpetrator, and the irreparable damage and harm it has had on two young lives. Conrad Roy, III lost his life, and Michelle Carter, vilified in the American press and court of public opinion, is a convicted felon and a social pariah.
The documentary includes interviews with a distinguished cast of journalists including Marie Cogan, Jesse Barron, and professionals including Dr. John Suler, author of ‘The Psychology of Cyberspace’, and Joseph Cataldo, Attorney for Michelle Carter, and members of the public who weigh in and present a multiplicity of takes and viewpoints about the suicide of Conrad Roy, III, and whether Michelle Carter is culpable of the crime of involuntary manslaughter for telling him to get back into the car and to finish the job which frames the documentary in a broader context of the American criminal justice system and life in the digital age.
If anything, I hope this heart-wrenching, emotionally moving documentary about a toxic teen relationship gone bad will spark a dialogue on the risks and dangers of virtual relationships. Do see it for you won’t be disappointed. It’s a well-crafted documentary deserving of your attention and a cautionary tale and a warning for parents with teenage children.
I love you, now die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter will be playing at Various Theatres:
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on May 4 @ 3:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 on May 5 @ 7:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased here!