Documentary on Diane Schuler Crash Premieres Tonight on HBO.



The story of Diane Schuler and the horrifying collision she caused is a series of mysteries that probably can’t be solved but that could, from some angles, be seen as fairly easy to explain.
The layers of anger, guilt and what many would call blind faith that surround the case, however, have given it a tragic intensity, making the unanswerability of the questions seem profoundly painful.

Liz Garbus, an Oscar and Emmy nominee for “The Farm: Angola, USA,” takes a hard look at those questions in a new documentary, “There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane.” It will be shown on HBO on Monday, nearly two years to the day since Ms. Schuler drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway in Westchester County, N.Y., causing the crash that killed her and seven other people, including her daughter and three nieces.



Much of the material Ms. Garbus presents has been on the record already, most prominently in an article by Steve Fishman in New York magazine in November 2009. But she packages it well in a film that’s like a more meticulous and dignified version of one of those network television prime-time crime compendiums — a “48 Hours Mystery” with more heart and brain.

There are two contradictory sets of questions in the case, depending on who is asking, and Ms. Garbus pursues them all. On one hand, why was Ms. Schuler driving with marijuana and the equivalent of 10 shots of alcohol in her body, as tests later showed? Was she a habitual drinker, and if so, did her husband and other family members know?

On the other hand, there are the questions that Ms. Schuler’s husband, Daniel, has steadfastly raised: Were the tests mistaken? If not, did some medical problem — a stroke, an abscessed tooth — cause her to start drinking?



Some viewers may complain that “There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane” is on the side of Mr. Schuler and his wife’s other defenders, because Ms. Garbus spends more time with him and his sister-in-law, Jay Schuler, than with anyone else. Part of this is about access: some key figures, like Warren and Jackie Hance, Diane’s brother and sister-in-law, whose three daughters died in the crash, declined to be interviewed.

There was also a quid pro quo at work. Ms. Garbus offered to move forward the fitful investigation that Mr. Schuler and Jay Schuler have sponsored in their effort to vindicate Diane, or at least to explain her behavior. The filmmakers were able to obtain medical records that had eluded them and helped them to get answers from a private investigator they had hired. His eventual response, a dramatic high point in the film, is not what they had hoped for.

As relatives, friends, co-workers and a forensic psychologist build a picture of Diane as a high-achieving, perfectionist mother and wife, Ms. Garbus intersperses the interviews with a reconstruction of the events of July 26, 2009. It’s a gripping and terrifying account, making use of video footage, cellphone conversations and testimony from investigators and a number of witnesses. The answers aren’t there either, but it’s impossible not to watch.

THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH AUNT DIANE

HBO, Monday night at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.

Directed by Liz Garbus; produced by Ms. Garbus and Julie Gaither; edited by M. Watanabe Milmore; director of photography, Michael Tucker; music by Jonathan Zalban. For HBO, Nancy Abraham, senior producer; Sheila Nevins, executive producer.