Tuesday, March 29, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Girl From Plainville' - Michelle Expresses Grief After Coco's Suicide in 'Star-Crossed Lovers and Things Like That'

Hulu's The Girl From Plainville - Episode 1.01 "Star-Crossed Lovers and Things Like That"

A teen's death by suicide unearths painful questions for his family and reveals a complicated, mostly virtual relationship with a young woman who may hold the answers.

"Star-Crossed Lovers and Things Like That" was written by Liz Hannah & Patrick Macmanus and directed by Lisa Cholodenko

The nature of relationships has changed as a result of technology. The environment in which Michelle Carter and Conrad "Coco" Roy III live and interact is different than the present-day. When one teenager notes about going viral, they suggest YouTube as the best option. It's enough awareness to know Facebook is already outdated. However, it's nothing compared to the onslaught ov social media platforms on the horizon. That is a component of this story. Michelle and Coco only met a few times in real life. The majority of their interactions were over the phone. The detective investigating the case is amazed at the scope of their communications when depicted in physical form. He has to commit every single moment of his life to digging through it in the hopes of better understanding why this young man died from suicide. Allusions are made to both Michelle and Coco suffering from mental health issues. They've both been treated by professionals. Medication has helped in the past. That may have been a way for them to initially bond. Over the course of this premiere though, a stark difference emerges. The Roy family offers a genuine depiction of grief. They are completely shaken by this sudden tragedy. They realize how little they knew about Coco. This wasn't his first attempt at ending his own life. They hoped for the best. They thought he was handling life in a better way. And then, it all comes crashing down when he doesn't come home one night. Meanwhile, Michelle is largely acting out emotions she believes she is meant to feel. It never presents as her having the genuine impulses or pursuing original concepts. She knows how to go through the motions of grief. It's expected of the girlfriend to attend the funeral. As such, she is in immediate contact with the family even though they have never met. She wants to be included in every single moment. That includes saying goodbye to the people who came to pay their respects. She even wants to be included when his ashes are spread at sea. She knows how much being on the water meant to Coco. It was a true and honest relationship. One where they shared a significant part of themselves. However, it all builds to Michelle copying an emotional monologue from Glee about the sudden passing of a loved one in the teenage years. She sees the emotional connection. It's not an artful expression of grief though. Instead, it immediately plays as her conditioning herself for how to feel this way. That means she can then effectively fool those into believing just how tragic this is for her.

It would be perfectly reasonable for Michelle to be paralyzed with grief. Her reaction never comes across that way. It's startling. It's all designed around the secrecy of this relationship. Michelle and Coco's respective families didn't know the other existed. They were in the dark about Michelle and Coco dating. And yet, Coco left behind goodbye notes to Michelle and his father. His mother was the one who found them. That's a purposeful action meant to inflict more pain to her specifically. It places the burden on her for pushing him over this edge. Coco's parents fear they are responsible for how miserable he was. They want to believe they did everything right. It still ended in this tragic outcome. They are left with no easy answers. It's all completely mysterious. And now, Michelle enters their lives with a new perspective. She wants to be included. However, she isn't contributing to the healthy nature of this collective grief. It's performative. Rob wants to stage a fundraiser to bring awareness to mental health issues. Michelle can be a part of that. Instead, she retreats to her friends and pitches the same ideas. It holds personal significance for her. It has no focus in her community. Of course, all teenagers should be aware of the perils of this vicious disease. It's much more common than people are willing to admit. It's easy to see the troubling behavior after a tragedy. It at least rallies support behind the issue. It's also meant to alienate Michelle. She wants to do the right thing in this moment. She isn't in the right place to allow that to occur in a productive way. And so, she is continually frustrated and lashing out. Again, that's not an atypical response from a teenager. She doesn't believe her parents understand her. They are simply annoying for questioning how deep this love actually was. Everyone is right to question the nature of this bond though. No one knew what it was but Michelle and Coco. Some friends were aware this relationship existed. They were never given enough access to the other person to make an informed opinion. Instead, the text messages say it all. That dramatization can be weak as the action has to depicting a character simply reading words on a page. However, it's immediately clear Michelle helped facilitate this suicide. She worked through all the ways in which Coco could do it. That's troubling in a way that should unnerve everyone involved. It all happened despite the two being far apart. In this new world, they can be incredibly close with no being the wiser to the impact the bond is having on each of them until it's too late.