In early 2020, filmmakers Charlie Russell and Dov Freedman met with Caroline Flack to discuss making a documentary that would tell her side of the story, in the wake of her recent assault charge. That documentary was never made, as just a couple of months later, she took her own life. Now, a year on from her death, Russell and Freedman have turned the project into a heartfelt eulogy that is both compelling and devastating.
Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death explores the months that led up to the star’s suicide, in particular the assault charge and the reactions of both the public and the tabloids. The Channel 4 documentary doesn’t shy away from this period, yet it also takes time to reflect on the various stages of Caroline’s life, with testimonies from close friends including Olly Murs and Dermot O’Leary, and, most poignantly, her mother Christine and her twin sister Jody.
There is an exploration of Caroline’s childhood, and how it quickly became obvious that she experienced emotions on a much deeper level than those around her, her euphoric highs were countered with dangerous lows. She never dealt well with heartbreak, which is why it was all the more damaging when her fame meant these break ups became public knowledge and even front-page news. Her increasing notoriety was always in tandem with the rise of social media: as the shows she hosted became more high-profile, there became more opportunities for online trolls to voice their opinions. Murs reflected that their stint hosting The X Factor in 2015 “should have been the most amazing experience of our lives, but it ended up probably being our downfall”, yet he also admitted that Caroline was subject to a lot more abuse than he was.
The final minutes of the documentary were perhaps the most affecting: a montage of footage that showcased Caroline’s vibrance and humour which highlighted the beautiful bond she had with her twin sister. Jody herself says that “her emotional struggles were just a little part of who she was”, and her infectious lust for life is emphasised by everyone involved in the programme. The moving montage is set to Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, a song with an upbeat synth sound that serves to mask the darkness of the lyrics. Caroline didn’t open up about how she was feeling, and within the documentary there is a sense of regret that her positive demeanour made it difficult to spot that she was struggling.
The hour-long programme seems to only scratch the surface of a host of topics that themselves could be the basis of future documentaries, which was perhaps frustrating at times, but is not necessarily a criticism. There is plenty of time for a wider and more nuanced perspective; this was always intended to be a tribute to Caroline, by bringing her documentary to life – albeit under the most tragic of circumstances.
Over the past year, Caroline has been the face of many societal talking points: the ‘Be Kind’ movement, the impact of social media trolls, the relationship between celebrities and the media, as well as frank discussions about mental health on huge platforms. But for me, this documentary was a reminder that above anything else, Caroline was a friend, a daughter and a twin. From watching Russell and Freedman’s programme, it is clear that those who made contributions are still coming to terms with the events of last year, but this programme gave those who knew her best the opportunity to pay tribute to the woman they are still grieving. It is a very difficult watch, but it is also compassionate and respectful, and is essential viewing for anyone who loved Caroline Flack.
Featured Image Source: Still via Channel 4 // Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death