Essential premise: The Girl from Plainville is inspired by un dramatic case of true news which ended with an inevitable passage in a courtroom. As the initial disclaimer of each episode dutifully points out, the authors took some liberties in staging the story. Where is the boundary between reality and fantasy is difficult to say. How much Michelle Carter brought to the screen by Elle Fanning and the girl protagonist of the real story share how character and experiences it is difficult to identify. Similar and even more complex speech for the victim, the fragile Coco to which Colton Ryan gives voice and face.
This is why what is written in this review can only refer to the characters of the series and can neither want nor should it be taken as an opinion on their real alter egos. Nor is it a comment on the outcome of the legal matter.
A story with two victims
The Girl from Plainville it’s the story of a relationship that ended in the worst way. Of two guys who met by chance as often happens, who discovered that they could talk to each other as they could not do with the many around them, who continued to do so even without almost never seeing each other live . The story of two wounded souls who tried to heal each other. But they didn’t succeed. Because common sickness is never half joy, but only double pain. And from a double pain nothing but an even greater tragedy can arise. A tsunami of depression that sinks and drags both of them down with it.
And this is the first important aspect that the series clarifies in an increasingly painfully clear way as the episodes proceed. It would be easy and spontaneous distinguish between victim and executionerbetween innocent and guiltybetween weak and strong looking only at the conclusion and the immediate after of the relationship between Coco and Michelle. In the final tragic minutes, Coco is on the verge of backing off from his purpose, but it’s Michelle who pushes him to go through with it. To return to the car saturated with lethal exhaust gases to complete the planned and announced suicide. And it is Michelle who seeks and finds the understanding, affection, popularity that more or less spontaneously embrace a girl whose boyfriend has killed himself. Although no one had ever really realized that Michelle and Coco were together.
Michelle fierce opportunistso?
The Girl from Plainville starts from this assumed with a first episode whose ending is a scene as disturbing as it is accusatory. Because this would be the simplest solution after all. There are good and bad. There are Coco and Michelle. But the show is not interested in stopping at the surface of this drama. He plunges into this abyss to show why, in reality, this story has only victims.
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The impossibility of accepting life
The Girl from Plainville he builds his narrative backwards just as investigators do when they become convinced that Coco’s death could have been prevented. And that it could and should be that Michelle who, on the contrary, encouraged the boy to complete a gesture she was about to give up. In the absence of the crime of instigating suicide in the American judicial system, the charge will be that of negligence and the sentence, therefore, relatively light. While carefully following the investigations and the development of defense and prosecution strategies, the series prefers to focus on a certainly more fundamental question.
Can we talk about instigation to suicide?
If Michelle hadn’t told Coco to get back into that car, the boy would have been saved. But wouldn’t she have done it again? This question is impossible to answer with certainty. Because Coco was unfortunately unable to accept the burden of having to write one’s own future. Terrified of having to deal with the consequences that each choice would have on his relationship with others. Blocked by the fear of disappointing even one of the people he loved. Crushed by the conviction that every decision he made could shatter the fragile balance of a family that had just survived the divorce of their parents. Coco chooses to die because he will stop suffering. He knows that his gesture will cause enormous pain, but he is paradoxically convinced that it will his life can only be a source of other pains even bigger.
Above all, Coco doesn’t choose death because it’s Michelle who convinces him. Michelle’s mistake is that she wanted to be close to Coco by supporting her every decision. Giving him that consent that no one had ever given him. Supporting him in his search for happiness because for her too happiness is not the beginning of a joy, but the end of a pain. Like Coco, Michelle is unable to accept life. Not out of fear of the future, but out of fear of the present. A today made of desperate requests for friendship that are always coldly ignored, of warm outbursts of an unexpected but sincere love, scornfully scorned, of a constant search for an external perfection imposed by the demands of a society where appearing counts as much as being if not more. Michelle finds in Coco that hand to hold in order not to feel alone. A bond made of understanding and supporting each other.
Without ifs and buts. Until the end. It should also be the worst possible. The most wrong. Michelle does not instigate Coco to kill herself. She tells him to get back in the car because she is convinced that loving him also means giving him strength to find that death which is the only happiness possible when, as for both, it is impossible to accept life.
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The inability to see
The Girl from Plainville he also pays great attention to building the social fabric in which the story of Michelle and Coco matured. Without wanting to blame, but leaving the viewer with the onerous task of judging how much he may have contributed to writing the dramatic epilogue. Inviting him to ask questions not only on the behavior of the two boys, but also on how all those who later mourned the death of Coco and accused Michelle’s shocking conduct of evil and cynicism related to them. To look in the mirror to go beyond a search for the culprit which is unmentionably the simplest and quickest way to absolve oneself. Exposing a monster to the public mockery to prevent anyone from wondering if it could have been do something before it was too late.
Michelle initially exploits Coco’s death and her relationship with him to gain the popularity that allows her to get out of the exclusion zone in which she was exiled. In addition to the obvious condemnation that she deserves the girl, the series also wants to suggest a much less obvious question. Why can only such an extreme event save Michelle? Why does the girl have to go to this madness to be heard by those who have always rejected her for no reason?
Michelle thus becomes not a cause, but a consequence. She would probably have acted differently if she hadn’t been forced to live in a dark corner. It is not a case that The Girl from Plainville adopt the scenic artifice of showing Michelle and Coco talk live when, on the other hand, you are just exchanging messages on your cell phone. It is appropriate for the series to avoid framing always and only telephones. But above all it makes explicit what that relationship was for both of us. The only way not to be alone.
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Because only, in reality, he is also Coco despite being constantly surrounded by the attentions of his mother, by the quiet quarrels with his sisters, by the affection imbued with machismo of his grandfather, by the jokes with the colleagues of a father waiting for him. A cloud of people who, however, cannot get to know him. And that they will learn to listen to the real Coco only after his death through those videologs in which he confessed his daily life made up of problems and fears. The Girl from Plainville thus demonstrates that what has happened is not a cunningly ingenious plan of an incredibly evil mind, but the sum of a thousand causes. And among these there is also the inability to see what’s behind the screen of a silence or the wall of a smile.
The Girl from Plainville it’s not a pro or con Michelle Carter series. It’s a cry of alarm to remember that pain is never the fault of a single person, but always the sum of many unseen absences, unheard silences, unspoken words, actions not done, help not given. A way to repeat Primo Levi’s memento in a different but no less dramatic context: consider that this has been and do not forget.