Indispensable 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 recalls, the authors have taken some liberties in staging the story. Where the line between reality and fantasy is is difficult to say. As the Michelle Carter brought to the screen by Elle Fanning and the girl protagonist of the real story share character and experience is difficult to identify. Similar and even more complex speech for the victim, the fragile Coco to which Colton Ryan gives voice and face.
It is for this reason that what is written in this review can only refer to the characters of the series and cannot nor will nor should it be taken as an opinion on their real alter egos. Nor is it a comment on the outcome of the legal case.
A story with two victims
The Girl from Plainville is the story of a relationship that ended in the worst way. Of two guys who met by chance as often happens, who discovered they could talk to each other as they couldn’t 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 pain is never half joy, but only double pain. And from a double pain nothing can arise but an even greater tragedy. A tsunami of depression that sinks and drags both of us down with it.
And this is the first important aspect that the series makes clearer and more painfully clear as the episodes progress. It would be easy and spontaneous to distinguish between victim and perpetratorbetween innocent and guiltybetween weak and strong looking only at the conclusion and immediately after the relationship between Coco and Michelle. In the last tragic minutes, Coco is about to back down from his intention, but it is Michelle who pushes him to go through with it. Returning to the car saturated with lethal exhaust fumes to complete the planned and announced suicide. And it is Michelle who seeks and finds the understanding, the affection, the popularity that more or less spontaneously embrace a girl whose boyfriend killed himself. Even though no one ever really realized that Michelle and Coco were together.
Michelle fierce opportunistso?
The Girl from Plainville starts from this hired with a first episode the ending of which is a scene as disturbing as it is accusatory. Because that would be the simplest solution after all. There are good and bad. There are Coco and Michelle. But the series is not interested in stopping at the surface of this drama. He plunges into this abyss to demonstrate 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 detectives do who become convinced that Coco’s death could have been prevented. And that it could and should have been avoided by Michelle who, on the contrary, encouraged the boy to carry out a gesture that she was about to give up. In the absence of the crime of incitement to 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 however prefers to focus on a certainly more fundamental question.
Can we speak of instigation to suicide?
If Michelle hadn’t told Coco to get back in that car, the boy would have been saved. But wouldn’t she do it again? This question is impossible to answer with certainty. Because Coco was sadly unable to accept the weight of having to write their own future. Terrified of having to deal with the consequences that each choice would have on his relationship with others. Stuck in fear of disappointing even one of the people he loved. Crushed by the belief that every decision he made could shatter the fragile balance of a family recovering from the divorce of their parents. Coco chooses to die so that he will stop suffering. He knows that his gesture will cause enormous pain, but he is paradoxically convinced that his life can only be a source of other pains even bigger.
Above all, Coco does not choose death because it is Michelle who convinces him. Michelle’s mistake is her wanting 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 up of desperate requests for friendship always coldly ignored, of warm impulses of an unexpected but sincere love disdainfully vilified, 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 shake so you don’t 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 doesn’t instigate Coco to kill herself. She tells him to get back in the car because she believes that loving him also means giving him strength to find that death which is the only possible happiness 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 close attention to building the social fabric in which the story of Michelle and Coco matured. Without wanting to blame, but leaving the spectator 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 Coco’s death 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 unavowably the simplest and most hasty way to acquit oneself. Expose a monster to public ridicule so no one wonders if he could have do something before it was too late.
Michelle initially uses Coco’s death and her relationship with him to gain the popularity that allows her to leave the exclusion zone in which she had been 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 probably would 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 stage device of showing Michelle and Coco converse live when, on the other hand, they’re just exchanging messages on their cell phone. It is convenient for the series to avoid always and only framing telephones. But most of all it makes explicit what that relationship was for both of them. The only way not to be alone.
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Because alone, in reality, he is also Coco despite being constantly surrounded by his mother’s attentions, by the quiet quarrels with his sisters, by the machismo-soaked affection of his grandfather, by the jokes with colleagues of a father waiting for him. A cloud of people who fail to know him. And that they will learn to listen to the real Coco only after her death through those videologs in which she confessed her daily life made up of problems and fears. The Girl from Plainville thus proves that what has happened is not a cunningly brilliant 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 silence or the wall of a smile.
The Girl from Plainville it’s not a series for or against Michelle Carter. It’s a cry of alarm to remember that pain is never the fault of just one person, but always the sum of many unseen absences, unheard silences, unspoken words, undone actions, ungiven help. One way to repeat Primo Levi’s memento in a different but no less dramatic context: consider that this was and do not forget.