How 'I Love You, Now Die' Aims to Show Michelle Carter Texting Suicide Case in Different Light
The doc, the second part of which airs tonight on HBO, explores the roles of technology and mental illness in the controversial death of Conrad Roy, whose girlfriend was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The HBO documentary I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter, which wraps up tonight, invites viewers to revisit the case of Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after the then-17-year-old seemingly encouraged her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, 18, to kill himself through text messages and phone calls.
Divided into two parts — the prosecution and the defense — Erin Lee Carr's film takes a deeper look into the controversial case and technology's role in what happened while also attempting to paint a different picture of Carter.
While it is well-known that Roy suffered from depression, Carter was also struggling with mental illness, the doc claims.
Mainly, though, Carr's goal was to provide a larger perspective and show Carter in a new light than the popularity-obsessed girl the media made her out to be.
"I just think that when people don't know the case in a way that the people sitting inside the courtroom know it, you just know your visceral reaction to what she said to this amazing and attractive young kid, who is no longer here," Carr said during a panel discussion following the screening of the film in New York last week.
Similar to the trial it follows, the documentary explores the tens of thousands of text messages, many of which are unsettling, exchanged between Roy and Carter throughout their relationship.
Carr includes critical analyses of the texts from various sources and aims to prove that mental health, in the case of both teens, played a role in events the night Roy committed suicide, with the doc telling the story of two young adults who were suffering emotionally, mentally and psychologically.
"Seeing this young woman go through this tortured experience, I think that what happened to her and the verdict is not really fair," producer Andrew Rossi said, explaining that he experiences what happened "so much as a parent." He continued: "I think more about all the inputs and just the pain that she went through, but I don't think that her texts overwhelmed him and overcame his free will."
Journalist Jesse Barron covered the entirety of the trial for Esquire and was featured in the film, providing commentary on Carter's mental state, which he studied and researched for months. His observations shifted not only his opinion of Carter but also his reporting, he said, allowing him to tell a story similar to Carr's, which he believes needs to be understood.
"Erin has spoken about how she wanted her film to give Michelle Carter the jury trial that she never had, and I think that the Reddit response and this response here speaks to that," Barron said at the screening, adding that in larger groups "we can have the kind of conversations we might have had if this case had been deliberated."
Carr said she expects that viewers might come away from the doc with a completely different take on Carter than they originally had, but mostly she wants her film to inspire debate.
In addition to exploring an aspect of the case that wasn't as prevalent during media coverage, Carr tells Roy's story as well, focusing on the loved ones he left behind through family interviews.
"I think that in order for this to be an HBO doc, you needed to understand Conrad Roy. It could not just be the Michelle Carter story; it also had to be about him," Carr said. "It really was, 'How do we tell a story of someone who is no longer here respectfully, and how do we tell the legal, emotional and psychological story of Michelle Carter?'"
Carr also wanted to touch on the complex relationship between the law and technology. Her film highlights how technology complicates a criminal case, raising questions about whether texting should be viewed as criminal negligence and recklessness.
"I think that one of the reasons why this film is super powerful and why people connect to this story is because this is only a taste of what's going to have to happen when we really think about how the law confronts social behavior and powerful interactions that previously never happened in those domains," Barron said.