Posted Aug 8, 2011 @ 9:40 PM
This documentary was, at first, maddening to me. I thought the filmmaker was lazy. While I understood that the Hance family wouldn't talk to Liz Garbus and that Danny Schuler was an impossibly tough nut to crack, there were too many questions that were never even asked, let alone, answered. I smelled big secrets and bigger lies, but I didn't think I could base my suspicions on anything I learned from the film. Later, though, I decided I was wrong about that.
From the start, I didn't want to believe that 36-year-old Diane Schuler was just another drunk and junkie who selfishly decided to imbibe, with five kids in her minivan, on a Sunday morning. Everything the doc revealed about her showed a hardworking, decent (though bitchy) woman, who had a productive place in society. So? What? She couldn't wait a half-hour to get home before hitting the Absolut again?
I fell into a dogged kind of CSI mode. Did toxicology check the contents of the vodka bottle? What about the lip, the cap, the fingerprints on the bottle? Could it have been tampered with? If Diane Schuler smoked pot 15 minutes to one hour before her death, as reported in the documentary by the toxicologist, were there any remnants of a joint anywhere? If not, why not? Did her tongue, mouth, teeth show recent pot use? Did she actually smoke it or was the pot forcibly administered in other ways?
Did the autopsy actually find any evidence of an abscessed tooth, gum or mouth infection, as Diane's husband insisted? The documentary didn't mention that either. I was anxiously waiting to hear that info! At least I didn't catch it.
So, since I couldn't stop thinking about the film, I went to watch it again...then a third time. In fact, whenever I surf channels, if I happen to come across this doc midstream, I have no choice but to stop and to watch again. It feels almost disrespectful to the dead to ignore what I'm seeing in front of me. The photo of Mrs Schuler at the crash site is really impossible to forget. All alone, with her terrible Secret.
And after all those viewings, I've come away thinking that, for me, most of the answers to what happened that terrible day are right there in front of my eyes and ears. There really isn't a mystery, after all.
I don't think I can ever know why what happened actually happened that morning on the Taconic, but, for me, I believe the chances are good that Diane Schuler made a conscious decision that day to kill herself and to bring her own children and her brother's three girls with her. I can't know what pushed her, but I believe that Mrs Schuler thought she was making the right decision for herself and for her family, and like the bossy, take-charge, rigidly unbendable, inflexible and unrelenting woman everybody described in the documentary -- her friends, estranged friends, coworkers, in-laws, sis-in-law -- Diane did what she thought she had to do. She fortified herself with lethal amounts of vodka and pot, closed her ears to the screams of those babies in the back seat, convinced herself that this was for the best.
What actually happened between Diane and her husband, or, what actually had been percolating for years between Diane and her brother, Warren, will probably never be known to the public. But, I do believe, based on listening to the interviews and, especially, to the eyewitnesses interviewed in this film, along with Jay Schuler's spontaneous blurt-outs, that Diane decided to end her life that morning. But, there was no way, no how, she was going to leave her two children behind. Her husband didn't want them and didn't care about them; he may have resented them every day of their lives. And, above all else, Diane would never abandon her kids, leave them alone, in the same way her mother did to her and, for which, Diane never forgave or forgot -- or recovered.
Why take her three little nieces with her in the end? That's an interesting question to me, and I can't help but wonder about Diane and Warren's relationship, growing up in that house, little kids abandoned by their mom, growing into their teens. Warren embraced his mom in reconciliation; did Diane secretly hate him for that? Did she feel betrayed? Diane did call her brother -- her last call before the end. Did she tell him why she was about to do the unthinkable? What a cross to bear.
Lots of secrets and lies. In the end, the documentary wasn't as nebulous or unsatisfactory as I first thought. Maybe a B-. I wanted more questions asked, but, realistically, I know they'll never be answered.