From the moment that Erin Lee Carr started following the case against Michelle Carter in Massachusetts, Carr found her opinions on the case to be constantly changing as she discovered new information and she chose to use that to frame her recent HBO documentary. “There would be evidence that shifts towards guilt, there would be evidence that shifts towards innocence, so I think I really wanted the film to show that,” she tells us during our recent webchat (watch the video above).
She knew that there would be people who would go into this movie with a very set way of thinking in terms of how they viewed the subjects and Carr wanted to engage them. “As a documentary filmmaker, I really want to push against that. I want for people to change their opinions and have that journey and take that journey with me.”
“I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter” examines the circumstances behind the suicide of 18-year-old Conrad Roy, III in July of 2014. After meeting while on vacation in Florida, Roy and Carter (both from Massachusetts) started a romantic relationship that took place mainly through text messages. After Roy’s death, a search of his phone revealed his extensive texts with Carter including several where he talks about taking his own life and Carter seemingly encouraging him to go through with it. Carter is eventually charged with involuntary manslaughter and the film chronicles how the case played out in court and the jarring twists and turns that were discovered during the course of the trial.
When she first started learning the details of the Michelle Carter case, Carr knew that this was not only a story she wanted to tell but was also in a unique position to tell. “I am somebody that covers the intersection between mental health and technology as it relates to documentary, so this was a subject matter that hits all those sweet spots,” she explains. But she was also determined to tell this story in a fair way that didn’t set aside the facts of the case. “I was sick of people screaming about this case without understanding what it was really about. I think if you spent about five to ten minutes inside the case, you recognize this is a case about loneliness, not fitting in and what it’s like when your brain is telling you awful things.”
The show is filled with startling revelations throughout its two parts, but none were probably as surprising as the connection the case had to the popular show “Glee.” Carter was an avid fan of the show and it was discovered that several messages describing her feelings about Roy after his death were verbatim statements that Lea Michele had made after the death of her co-star/boyfriend, Cory Monteith. “It’s really shocking when you see it on the page, but when you see it in documentary it’s so much weirder because you can experience it first-hand.”
Carr has had people ask her why she waited to show this revelation until well into the second part of the program, but assures us that it was a very deliberate choice. “I think there’s a lot of films where you present the facts and you go forward with the narrative in a verité way. But I want for you, as an audience member, to keep adding to it so that when you are sitting there after the fact, you’re like, ‘What just happened?’,” she says.
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