The best new true crime drama has 92% on Rotten Tomatoes

Poster art for The Girl From Plainville featuring Elle Fanning
(Image credit: Hulu)

Hulu has long been the place to go if you're into true crime, of the drama or documentary variety, with enthralling options like The Act and The Dropout. Its newest true crime drama, The Girl From Plainville, is earning rave reviews and has a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It's also one of our top picks among the new movies and shows to watch this weekend.

The miniseries is based on the true story of teen Michelle Carter (Elle Fanning) and her romance-gone-wrong with 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Henry Roy III (Coltan Ryan), who died by suicide in 2014. Carter, 17, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging Roy to kill himself via text messages. 

The eight episodes chronicle the aftermath of Roy's death, as his mother (Chloë Sevigny) and father (Norbert Leo Butz) grapple with their grief and shock. Meanwhile enjoys the sympathy and attention of classmates. But the police begin investigating the circumstances around Roy's suicide, they unearth a trove of stunning text messages that put a different spin on the teens' relationship.

Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy case, explained

At the time of his death, Conrad Henry Roy III was an 18-year-old high school graduate who played baseball, rowed crew and ran track. He had been accepted to Fitchburg State University, but had decided not to attend. Roy had also worked with his father, grandfather, and uncle for several years in the family's marine salvage business, and earned a captain's license from the Northeast Maritime Institute. 

Roy met Michelle Carter in Florida in 2012 while each was visiting relatives. Over the next few years, they saw each other just a few times, despite living fairly close to each other in the Boston suburbs. Their relationship was conducted primarily via text and email messages. Both teens struggled with mental health issues and took prescription medication.

On July 13, 2014, Roy committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide fumes in his truck. 

Police later uncovered a trove of text messages in which Carter eggs on Roy to kill himself. In one exchange, she suggested using a generator in the back of his truck. When Roy got cold feet a few days before his death, she wrote, "I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe. You can’t keep doing this every day.

The police charged Carter with involuntary manslaughter. The subsequent trial became known as the "texting suicide case." As she was 17 at the time, a grand jury indicted her as a youthful offender, rather than a juvenile, which meant she could be sentenced as an adult. 

Carter waived her right to a jury trial, so the verdict was reached solely by Judge Lawrence Moniz of the Bristol County Juvenile Court of Massachusetts. She was sentenced to two and a half years, with 15 months served in prison and and the balance suspended. She also received five years of probation. 

Her lawyers appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court, arguing that it was a violation of Carter's First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Carter began serving her 15-month sentence on February 11, 2019. She was released early on January 23, 2020 for good behavior. Since then, Carter, now 25, has not made any public appearances or statements. 

The Girl From Plainville reviews

Elle Fanning as Michelle Carter and Colton Ryan as Connor Roy in The Girl From Plainville

(Image credit: Hulu)

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Girl From Plainville has a 92 percent rating from critics and a 69 percent Audience Score. The critics consensus says, "Grounded by a disturbingly powerful performance by Elle Fanning, The Girl from Plainville dramatizes a sordid true story with tasteful restraint."

The Wrap's Kim Potts writes, "This retelling of a true crime scandal transcends the pop culture frenzy and pithy headlines and attempts to tell a real human story."

Joel Keller at Decider hails The Girl From Plainville as "a nuanced look at a sensational case that played out with the usual media-induced broad strokes."

Vulture's Jen Chaney thinks the show is "well-acted but overly drawn-out" and praises Fanning's "fascinating and disturbing" portrayal of Carter. 

IndieWire's Kristen Lopez sums it up as "dreamy, disturbing, and impeccably acted by Fanning and Ryan."

Brian Lowry of CNN has a more negative take, calling it "bland" and believing the story is "better suited to a documentary than a drama."

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Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.