Caroline Flack documentary: 'A compassionate eulogy', critics say

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A Channel 4 documentary looking into the life and death of TV personality Caroline Flack has been broadly praised by the critics.

The programme, shown on Wednesday night, featured emotional interviews and home videos with Flack's mother and sister.

It also examined the roles the media and social media played in her death.

The ex-Love Island and X Factor host was found dead at her home in Stoke Newington, London, in February 2020.

A coroner ruled she had killed herself while facing trial accused of assaulting her boyfriend.

'Please stay'

The Guardian described the documentary as "a compassionate eulogy suffused with pain".

"The memories are suffused with love and tenderness - and the present misery and the anger are palpable," wrote Lucy Mangan, awarding four stars.

"The years of fear and worry that come with loving someone who is simply not able to cope with all of life's vicissitudes, let alone the heightened versions visited on Flack, are powerfully evoked by [her sister] Jody and [mother] Christine.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCaroline Flack killed herself in February 2020

"But, at the same time, there are happy memories. 'I never had as much fun with anybody, ever,' says Jody in the closing moments. 'She was so full of joy. That's what's so greatly missed about her.'

"It is an hour that makes you long to plead with anyone and everyone - if you are ever thinking of going, please don't. Please, please stay."

'Sensitive study'

The Telegraph awarded the same score, with journalist Anita Singh calling the documentary "a sensitive study of suicide and mental health".

"From an early age, Christine recalls, 'Jody was the positive and Carrie was the negative,'" she wrote. "It is the kind of personality often referred to as 'wearing your heart on your sleeve' - but in Flack, that translated to finding heartbreak unbearable.

"There were overdoses when relationships didn't work out - and Jody says that her sister 'was quite fascinated by the subject of suicide, always.'"

"The pressures of fame will affect very few of us - but depression is familiar to many. The film is a tribute to Flack - her talent, her warmth, her sense of fun - and it would be heartening if her legacy is a greater understanding of depression and suicide."

image copyrightChannel 4
image captionThe documentary, Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death, was broadcast on Channel 4 on Wednesday evening

The Independent went for three stars, suggesting the film was "a moving but incomplete look at the perils of celebrity".

"Between Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah and the Britney Spears documentary, the treatment of women in the public eye has been under renewed scrutiny recently," wrote Ed Cumming.

"There was a horrible element of misogyny in how Flack was treated by the press. Social media is a swamp. Flack's was the fourth suicide of people associated with Love Island. Everyone associated with this destructive circus, critics included, ought to think about their complicity.

"But at the heart of Flack's short, sad life is a conundrum: how can you tell if you're cut out for fame, before it's too late? The answer has to come from within - or from those who know you best. You can't put it to the public."

'Painful watch'

The Times opted for four stars, saying the documentary showed how "a possible tragedy is behind every media pile-on".

"How could what her friends called the 'funniest, stupidest ball of energy' and a 'pocket rocket whirlwind of fun' coexist with such pain?" asked Carol Midgley.

"What a symbolic tragedy of our time."

Writing in the i newspaper, Rachael Sigee also gave the documentary four stars, saying it was "painful to watch, yet strangely relatable".

"We already knew about the key moments [in her life]," she wrote. "It's what we didn't know that made Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death such a painful watch.

"This documentary was about someone terrified that their perceived weaknesses would be found out. You don't need to be under the blistering spotlight of fame to identify with the fear that consumed Caroline Flack."

'Open a dialogue'

As well as in the newspapers, there was plenty of talk about the documentary on social media - with many users adopting the hashtag #BeKind.

Leigh-Anne Pinnock, from the band Little Mix, tweeted: "My heart is truly broken for Caroline Flack's family.

"Caroline was the most nicest person ever and watching the documentary tonight was definitely an eye-opener. Always ask someone twice if they're feeling OK, because you never know how they're feeling deep down."

Fellow singer Paloma Faith said: "Just watched the Caroline Flack documentary and cried a lot. - very moving tribute but also so important to acknowledge and open a dialogue about the impact of social media and media and the responsibility of those who abuse those platforms to revel in public-facing figures demise."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker said the documentary was "just so incredibly sad".

"I know it's easy to say this but it should be a reminder to us all to judge our words carefully," he said.

"None of us truly know what others are going through."

And Channel 4 presenter Steph McGovern posted: "Caroline Flack's mam and sister - my heart breaks for them."

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