Louis Theroux’s latest documentary, Tell Them You Love Me, has left viewers deeply disturbed. Known for his probing interviews, Theroux delves into disability rights, race, and consent through a harrowing true story.

The documentary centres on Derrick Johnson, a 30-year-old non-verbal man with cerebral palsy who requires constant care. Enter Anna Stubblefield, a professor and disability rights advocate, who claimed she could help Derrick communicate using a controversial method called facilitated communication.

Initially, Derrick seemed to make progress, communicating through a keyboard and even attending university classes. However, the relationship took a troubling turn when Anna, who was married, began a sexual relationship with Derrick.

Anna insisted their relationship was consensual, but Derrick’s mother, Daisy Johnson, argued that her son couldn’t consent to a sexual relationship. The family claimed Anna was the one typing the messages attributed to Derrick.

After Anna revealed their relationship, she was reported to the authorities. In 2015, she was convicted of sexual assault, receiving two 12-year sentences. These were later overturned on appeal in 2017, and Anna was released after serving two years. She maintains her innocence to this day.

Theroux was drawn to the story after reading about it over a decade ago. He found it raised significant social questions about race, sexuality, and disability. He emphasises the vulnerability of non-verbal disabled individuals to misinterpretation, making the stakes in such cases particularly high.

Tell Them You Love Me quickly soared to the top of Netflix’s charts, being compared to the gripping nature of Baby Reindeer. The documentary portrays the complex and emotionally charged nature of the relationship, captivating viewers with its twists and turns.

The story raises numerous issues beyond the immediate case, including race dynamics and the ‘white saviour complex’. It also questions the effectiveness and ethical implications of facilitated communication, a method widely discredited by the scientific community.

Tell Them You Love Me is a compelling exploration of love, power, and vulnerability, demonstrating Theroux’s ability to tackle difficult subjects with sensitivity and depth.