Cleaning Out The DVR: Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill (dir by Stephen Tolkin)


I recorded Conrad & Michelle off of Lifetime on September 23rd.

In 2014, 18 year-old Conrad Roy committed suicide in Massachusetts, poisoning himself with carbon monoxide fumes while sitting in his truck.

Conrad was an outstanding athlete and a good student but he has also struggled with social anxiety and depression and had reportedly often insisted to various therapists that he wanted to die.  Some reports stated that Conrad had attempted suicide at least once before, with an attempted drug overdose when he was 17.  Any suicide, regardless of the circumstances, is a tragedy but making Conrad’s story all the more disturbing was that, minutes before his death, he was texting with an acquaintance named Michelle Carter.  Supposedly, a few years earlier, Michelle had talked Conrad out of a suicide attempt.  This time, however, she insisted that he grow through with it.  Even when he texted her that he was scared and that he had gotten out of his truck, Michelle texted back that he needed to get back in truck and go through with what he was planning.

After Conrad’s death, Michelle reportedly used the tragedy to generate as much attention for herself as possible.  She described herself as being Conrad’s girlfriend and his soulmate.  At the same time, Conrad’s friends and family said that Conrad had only met Michelle face-to-face a handful of times and that their relationship was almost entirely conducted online.  Some friends went as far as to say that they had never even heard Conrad mention Michelle’s name and that Conrad had actually been doing better before Michelle started sending him text messages in which she goaded him into committing suicide.

When Michelle was arrested and put on trial, it made national headlines.  Attorneys for the defense argued that Conrad had a history of suicidal behavior and that he was ultimately responsible for his own actions.  The prosecution, on the other hand, argued that Michelle was a narcissist who heartlessly manipulated a vulnerable acquaintance.  In the end, Michelle’s was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.  Specifically, she was convicted because of the text in which she told Conrad to get back in the truck.  In August of 2017, she was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison.

Given the sensational nature of the case and the fact that the trial made national headlines, it’s not particularly shocking that Lifetime would make a movie about it.  Starring Bella Thorne as Michelle and Austin P. McKenzie as Conrad, Conrad & Michelle does a good job of presenting the basic facts of the case.  We watch as Michelle and Conrad first meet while on vacation on Florida and then we follow along as both of them spend the next few years texting each other, taking different psychiatric medications, and attending various therapy groups.  Conrad struggles with his depression while Michelle deals with, among other things, an eating disorder.  After Conrad’s death, we watch as Michelle awkwardly forces herself into the lives of his friends and family.

Some people will probably complain that the film never solidly takes a side as to whether or not Michelle was truly responsible for Conrad’s suicide.  Though we see Michelle texting Conrad to get back in the truck, the film leaves it ambiguous as to whether it was specifically Michelle’s text that caused Conrad to follow through with his suicide.  Still, after Conrad’s suicide, the film leaves no doubt that Michelle relished her new-found fame and her status as a self-declared tragic heroine.  (After learning that Conrad’s suicide note was addressed to her, Michelle brags to her friends that Conrad didn’t write a note to anyone else.  Later, when Michelle sets up a charity softball game in Conrad’s memory, she breathlessly reminds everyone that it was her idea and worries that someone else might try to take credit.)  Bella Thorne does an excellent job in these scenes, playing Michelle as an unstable narcissist who is incapable of understanding why no one else is as excited for her as she is.  In these scenes, Michelle’s monstrous selfishness is revealed and Thorne gives a chilling performance.

Like the story that inspired it, Conrad & Michelle is a sad and disturbing movie and one that I would recommend catching the next time that it’s on.

One response to “Cleaning Out The DVR: Conrad & Michelle: If Words Could Kill (dir by Stephen Tolkin)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 9/24/18 — 9/30/18 | Through the Shattered Lens

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