Written by Dominic de Meester
A Gray State follows the life of the late David Crowley – an aspiring ambitious filmmaker who murdered his wife and daughter while taking his own life in the process. Through journal entries, archived footage, photographs and interviews, director Erik Nelson attempts to piece together a bizarre timeline that led to this tragedy.
What will intrigue viewers is the cloud of mystery that envelops David Crowley’s final years of his life. Crowley’s passion for filmmaking was evident at a young age, yet the events of 9/11 led him down a path of self-discovery and to his eventual enrollment in the United States military. Consequently, Crowley, an acute and somewhat obsessive visionary, sought to portray a dystopian near-future where civil liberties are trampled by an unrestrained federal government – with a movie called A Gray State.
By virtue of the sheer amount of archived footage and a synchronized chronological timeline achieved in this documentary, viewers are left with raw emotions towards the Crowley family. You’re uncomfortable and empathizing with the young daughter as she showcases her innocence and provides an eerie premonition foreshadowing her own future.
Due to the nature of Crowley’s film, many of the burgeoning online community of libertarians, Tea Party activists, and members of the nascent alt-right refuse to believe the narrative provided by the yearlong police investigation – fuelling the film’s topic, and adding a heightened mysteriousness to the overall story.
As for the footage in this documentary, the use of drones was well executed – adding an emotional connection between the viewer and the environment being portrayed. The soundtrack was also well selected, helping viewers connect with the individuals.
If you’re into television documentaries like 20/20 that focuses more on human interest stories, this documentary is right up your ally. But beware, it executes its message with precision, truly illustrating this unfortunate nightmare.
A Gray State is now playing in New York City.