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‘The Girl from Plainville’ is a disturbing true-life story with brilliant performances

The Carter family, Gail (Cara Buono), Michelle (Elle Fanning) and David Carter (Kai Lennox), in a scene from ‘The Girl from Plainville’. Picture: Showmax

The Carter family, Gail (Cara Buono), Michelle (Elle Fanning) and David Carter (Kai Lennox), in a scene from ‘The Girl from Plainville’. Picture: Showmax

Published May 29, 2022

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With a peculiar title like “The Girl from Plainville”, how could I not click play?

What fuelled my curiosity further was the fact that it was from the Hulu stable. The same network that gave us that brilliant true-crime drama, “The Act”, with Patricia Arquette and Joey King.

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The series, which shone a light on Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP), was brilliantly anchored by the actors in their mother-daughter roles.

Chloë Sevigny as Lynn in ‘The Girl from Plainville’. Picture: Showmax

Once again, Hulu returns to the true-crime drawing board with “The Girl From Plainville”, which is based on a real-life story but is enhanced by a few creative liberties, to create that dramatic effect.

The 8-part series centres on Michelle Carter (Elle Fanning) and her relationship with Conrad "Coco" Roy III (Colton Ryan). In a widely-publicised case in the US, Michelle was charged with involuntary manslaughter in a “texting suicide case”.

“The Girl from Plainville” looks at the events prior to and post Conrad’s suicide.

In the opening frame, Conrad’s lifeless body is found in his truck, in the parking lot of a shopping mall. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Prior to his suicide, he penned two notes: one to his father (Norbert Leo Butz) and another to Michelle.

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Colton Ryan as Conrad ‘Coco’ Roy III, Picture: Showmax

Suffice to say, his passing hits his parents hard. In fact, his mother Lynn (Chloë Sevigny) is dumbstruck by the turn of events as he promised her, after his failed first attempt at suicide, that he would never try to do so again.

As his family grieves, Michelle makes her sorrow felt by everyone around her, too.

Her parents are baffled by her inconsolable state, interjected by angry outbursts, as she had never spoken of a “boyfriend” before. And it is news to Lynn as well, as her son never mentioned Michelle.

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The first episode sets the melancholy tone of the series, which becomes disturbingly dark and, in many ways, heartbreaking as well.

Michelle’s narcissistic tendencies are gradually exposed, when she ingratiates herself into the lives of the Roys. Not just that, her story to those around her doesn’t add up.

Furthermore, she deliberately ostracises Conrad’s best friend from a memorial fundraising event that she puts together.

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Initially, the families of Michelle and Conrad are stymied by their relationship, oblivious to their struggles and harmful co-dependency.

As the storyline progresses, Michelle goes from being a popular kid at school to a social pariah. A bulimic, she numbs her pain with a stash of chocolate cookies. And she also cuts herself.

Conrad’s tumultuous relationship with his dad is exposed. As much as he tried to fit in and be a normal teenager, he kept getting sucked into this dark abyss of despair.

It didn’t help that everyone kept bugging Conrad to talk to a professional, but no one was actually “listening” when he spoke.

Outside of talking to Michelle, he took refuge in listening to music and video games.

At face value, Michelle appears to be as sweet as pie. Internally, though, she is wrestling with many issues and, as such, tries too hard to be accepted.

What comes across very strongly is that Michelle and Conrad were troubled kids that gravitated toward one another due to this very fact. Sadly, Michelle, in trying to be supportive, crossed a moral line with life-changing consequences.

“The Girl from Plainville” is not a comfortable watch, especially with those gas-lighting vibes, while unpacking mental health issues.

But it is compelling for the incredible performances, especially that of Sevigny and Fanning.

If you enjoyed shows psychological thrillers like “You”, “True Detective”, “Behind her Eyes”, “The Sinner” or “Who Kills Sara?”, you will enjoy this.

“The Girl from Plainville” is streaming on Showmax.

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