The New Amanda Knox Documentary Will Totally Change the Way You Look at Her

In the years after 21-year-old Meredith Kercher was murdered in Perugia, Italy, where she was studying abroad, I didn’t pay all that much attention to the case. I was in a high school bubble and didn’t spend nearly as much time on the internet as I do now. I did, however, have a weekly subscription to PEOPLE magazine and a growing interest in true crime.

I became deeply familiar with the grainy photos of Kercher’s roommate Amanda Knox kissing her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito right after Meredith’s body had been found, and knew from the Lifetime adaptation of the story starring Hayden Panettiere that Knox and Sollecito had continued to act strangely long into the investigation. Drawing on my rudimentary knowledge of the case, barely paying attention to the shifting convictions and acquittals taking place in the Italian court system, I decided they probably did it.

A new documentary that aired Friday on Netflix had me looking at the case in a whole new light. If you assiduously followed the case at the time, you probably won't find too much new stuff here. But for those of us who were too young or just weren't paying attention, the film is a powerful fresh look. Featuring many a haunting shot of Knox’s sorrowful face as she remembers the events that changed her life, the documentary presents a sympathetic picture of a young woman whose fate was shaped by forces far beyond her control. An unprepared justice system and a media starving for scandal combined to turn her life into a nightmare that she’s just now waking up from.

Watching the documentary interviews with Knox and Sollecito, it’s hard to believe they were ever painted as perverse sex fanatics who killed Kercher in anger for not wanting to join some kind of ritualistic fantasy. In reality, they had only met five days before the murder, and were excited about the budding relationship—Sollecito because he was nerdy and hadn’t dated much, and Knox because Sollecito was so different from the American boys she had dated before.

Just seeing the two famous suspects as regular people is powerful enough, but the documentary goes on to show that the evidence against the duo just isn’t that compelling. Independent investigators found that DNA samples presented as a slam-dunk by the prosecutor were likely the product of contamination, and that police botched the initial investigation of the crime scene. The case against a third suspect, Rudy Guede—which was barely touched by the media at the time because he wasn’t interesting—is plenty convincing.

Giuliano Mignini, the prosecutor, and Nick Piso, a Daily Mail journalist who covered the case extensively, can come off as villainous and calloused during their interviews for the documentary. But greater societal pressures pushed them in certain directions as well. Mignini and the police were under enormous stress from the public to find the person responsible for the brutal death of a young, foreign woman. The whole world was watching. And as Pisa says, people asked him at the time how he could cover such a lurid case—but they were the same people searching online for the latest updates every morning.

The documentary opens with a quote from Knox: “If I’m guilty, it means that I am the ultimate figure to fear...If I’m innocent, it means that everyone is vulnerable. Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing, or I am you.” It’s a powerful summary of the film’s lessons: We live in a world where fallible humans run the show—and that means we don’t always get the justice we crave. We jump to conclusions, cave to outside pressures and trust too much in gut feelings about how people are “supposed” to act. While we claim to want reliable facts and unbiased truth, we immediately click on the most sensational story we see. In this world, sometimes the wrong person gets convicted, even if everyone involved has the very best intentions. So if we really want to do right by victims like Meredith, maybe we all have to take a good long look at ourselves first.