Movie Review : I Love You, Now Die (2019)
* this review contains spoilers *
Last week, HBO premiered a two-part documentary about the death of Conrad Roy III, a teenager who was incited to commit suicide via text message by his girlfriend Michelle Carter. The case periodically made social media headlines throughout prosecution. Why wouldn’t it? It had everything: a fragile blue-eyed boy, a cheerleader girlfriend, a long distance relationship, text messages, mental illness. Everyone felt compelled in their own way. But why did Michelle Carter pressure her boyfriend into committing suicide? How does a romantic relationship even get there?
That’s what documentary filmmaker Erin Lee Carr seeks to explain in I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth V. Michelle Carter.
The film is split in two parts: the prosecution and the defense. The former establishes the nature of Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter’s relationship. The young couple met in real life a grand total of five times and lived an almost exclusively online relationship. It also examines Michelle’s social anxiety and weird behavior after Conrad’s death. The latter explores Michelle’s mental condition and whether or not she was responsible for her actions in the events leading to this tragedy. If Conrad was depressed and gradually disconnecting with reality, Michelle was… not that far behind.
So, what happened exactly to Conrad Roy III? I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth V. Michelle Carter argues rather convincingly that he and Michelle Carter were two socially anxious kids left alone on digital platforms where they had complete freedom from who they were. That freedom fostered a gradual disconnect from reality that affected both kids, but especially Michelle. At some point, she was interacting with people online using dialogue lines from Glee and even interview segments from Lea Michele after Cory Monteith’s death.
It’s almost cliché to say technology is changing the world and fostering disconnect between people, but I Love You, Now Die gives a powerful example of that. That disconnect is caused by internet, social media and technology in general’s ability to offer an easier and more seductive life. For Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter’s young minds, it wasn’t a tool. It was an alternate reality that ended up blending with who they were. Conrad and Michelle were tragically instrumental to each other. They came with little of the flaws and imperfection of real people.
I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth V. Michelle Carter is primarily a movie about the state of reality in 2019. Not just Conrad Roy and Michelle Carter’s reality. Our collective relationship to it. Because our opinion on this case was crafted from social media headlines and quick cross-reading of aggregation articles from overworked media interns. It is perhaps the ultimate goal of every documentary film, but Erin Lee Carr successfully demonstrates that reality is more complex than that. Chuck Klosterman said it best: “Nothing is ever in and of itself.”
Not even what is presented to be pure evil. It’s always more complicated than that.
Michelle Carter is currently serving a 15 months prison sentence for manslaughter. Should have she been convicted? I’m not so sure. What she did was morally wrong and unforgivable, but legally speaking Michelle was condemned for telling Conrad to “get back in the truck” when he was “in the act of” and there’s no proof she said that outside of her own testimony. And if the movie establishes anything, it’s that Michelle Carter would say just about anything to get attention.
Anyway, I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth V. Michelle Carter is riveting. It doesn’t only lays out the case for what it is, but it speaks to a universal problem we’re collectively refusing to see for what it is.