Warning: This post contains references to a true-case about suicide.
Once upon a time, there was a thing called a miniseries. Usually, these TV programs would air two hours in prime time over two, three or four nights. Sometimes, they were bold enough to go longer than that. But usually that was when the story was worth telling. For every Lonesome Dove, there was a Return to Lonesome Dove. The reason The Day After is a TV movie and Amerika is a bloated seven-part miniseries is obvious. The Day After told a bolder story in two hours.
The Girl From Plainville takes a very sensitive subject and stretches it over an eight part limited series, each at least 40 minutes long. That’s a good four hours and then some of a story about the suicide of Conrad “Coco” Roy III, 18, who’s body was found in a pick-up in July 2014 outside a K-Mart parking lot in Fairhaven, Conn. He had died by cabon monoxide poisoning by running a hose into the cabin of the truck.
The case became controversial when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed criminal involuntary manslaughter charges against his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, who sent him a text message telling specifically him to get back in the truck. Carter was only 17 at the time of Coco’s death. Her case became questionable because Coco had suicidial thoughts and had previous attempted suicide. And when she was convicted in July 2017, some people felt it had been an injustice.
Carter was prosecuted through a bench trial meaning the judge who presided over the trial determined the verdict. And I think if a jury had heard her case, it would’ve possibly ended in an acquittal. But I think it would’ve more than likely been a mistrial with a hung jury. No matter how many times the prosecution pursued it, it would’ve been the same result.
But watching this series, you can tell Coco (Colton Ryan) and Michelle (Elle Fanning) were a problem from the start. Both had their own sets of problems. Coco was far more obvious. His parents couldn’t say two words to each other without getting into a profanity-laced argument. Chloe Sevigny does a nice job as the more sympathetic mother, Lynn Roy, but it’s obvious Coco was a victim of abuse at the hands of his father, Conrad “Co” Roy II (Norbetz Leo Butz).
And judging from this type of family, I get the impression, getting hit by your father or mother on a regular basis like getting a hug or kiss hello from them. It’s also evident that Lynn didn’t want to raise her kids in that environment which may have led to the divorce. Co’s own father, Conrad Roy (Peter Gerety) is quick to blame Lynn and Co for not raising Coco in a Christian home. Oh, yes, those nice Christian homes where insults and physical abuse are very common.
The tragedy of Coco is that he was faced with a future he didn’t want to follow. Both his father and grandfather had their own marine salvage business and there was no question he would join. But there comes a time when someone doesn’t want to follow in their family traditions and Coco didn’t want that. Being part of a blue-collar family, he had parents and family who felt the only love he needed was “tough love.” The warning signs were there from the start. Nobody wanted to look.
Michelle’s life is a little more complicated. She hides her relationship with Coco from a lot of people at first including her friends and her parents. She’s obsessed with Glee. I think Michelle was one of these young kids who had to find attention anywhere she could. When she organizes a homerun derby fund-raiser for Coco, she makes it more about herself. And Michelle and Coco weren’t from the same town but Michelle had it in her town a good hour drive away. There’s also suggestions that Michelle may have been gay or bisexual and that created problems.
Fanning does what she can with the role and she’s great to watch when she’s on screen. You can tell that Michelle was just a kid who pretended to be one way around her parents and another her friends. That’s not a bad thing because a lot of teens do the same thing. The only problem I have is this would’ve been more effective if it was Coco’s story.
I feel the nature of the case led everyone to focus more on Michelle. The investigation and court proceedings that take up a good part of the series drag the series down. There’s so much jumping back and forth that I felt the series should’ve told it from a more linear way since it was told from Michelle’s point of view. Ryan does a good job of portraying someone who needed more help than he got. There’s always a feeling that Coco was treated and felt like he was in trouble following his first suicide attempt. And that’s why a lot of young people sadly are successfully with suicide. They’d rather die than have a parent add insult to injury during a cry for help.
Coco was crying for help. No one was listening. Michelle was wrong to tell him to get back in the truck. But everyone around Coco was wrong. If anything else, this series will hopefully open up people’s eyes to the warning signs that are there with their friends and loved ones. A lot of people say since Coco got back in the truck, he did so of his own, but Michelle telling him to get back in was truck was the same as a bartender serving one more drink to someone who was obviously too drunk.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255 if you need someone to talk to or know someone who needs this number.