Carrie Pilby (Bel Powley) is truly a special individual who lives inside of her own head more often than what others would deem healthy, including her therapist Dr Petrov, played by Lion King‘s Nathan Lane. Graduating Harvard University at nineteen years old, Miss Pilby struggles to make sense of her world due to things she can’t comprehend, including relationships, sex and actually leaving her flat. I would say Carrie is a realist, but most would says she has high standards. Due to having no job or any friends other than two goldfish, she is told by her therapist to create a bucket list to whip her life into shape, as it is passing her by more quickly than she knows.
After Edge of Seventeen and Perks of Being a Wallflower, but also Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, director Susan Johnson’s Carrie Pilby is a welcome addition to the coming of age genre in a decade that is filling up with many well-told coming of age stories and not just more millennial romcom-nonsense. And earlier this year we had Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why which shows the darker side of being a teen in the 21st century. Here we follow Carrie Pilby who is too smart for her own good. She sees through anyone and everyone, and really can’t cut people slack. From her own father to her New York neighbours, she seems to alienate anyone who tries to get close to her.
“There’s a perfectly good reason I don’t have any friends. Friends are people. And people are dishonest, ingenuine, and let’s face it, not that smart” says Carrie. Well, that’s one way to describe the human race and justify your “hermitting” lifestyle Miss Pilby. On one hand, I agree. On the other hand, what is life if you can’t share it with others… sometimes? Though, it doesn’t help that the rest of her building know her notoriously as “the girl that doesn’t leave her apartment” and the restaurant she goes to are shocked when she tells them she’s meeting another person. Let alone being caught in the corridor by her neighbour Cy (William Moseley), and not knowing what fun is.
Carrie is a girl wound up so tight that actual emotions are a figment to her and she only sees things in black and white. There is no room for the grey areas, like having fun or going on a date. And Bel Powley makes this role her own. The scenes she shares with her therapist Dr. Petrov (Nathan Lane) are the some of the best I’ve seen in a coming of age drama. They’re reminiscent of the chemistry that Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Woody Harrelson (Wilson) had in Edge of Seventeen. The Powley-Lane tag-team is truly something to behold. And what’s more, Nathan Lane (The Good Wife) is an accomplished actor bringing his skills to a less experienced cast.
After watching the second season of Master of None, it’s showing how much the status of being in a relationship means to today’s 18-30 age bracket. Seriously, it’s waved around like having the new iPhone. Carrie’s co-worker Tara (Vanessa Bayer) says: “Come on, smart AND pretty? You must be killing it out there. Do you have a boyfriend?” to which Carrie replies: “Is that really your next question?” which the conversation ends with Tara saying: “Are you a nun?” The comic value here is cheap and a low-blow from the writers, but necessary in showing that if you’re young, female and pretty, you MUST be in a relationship. It was a low-blow, but if there’s no pain there’s no game.
Off the back of Hannah Baker in 13 Reasons Why, it shows us what loneliness can do to someone and how unhealthy it can be. In the Netflix show, it was one of the factors that aided in her suicide. In Edge of Seventeen, Nadine (Steinfeld) badges herself an “old soul” and you can tell Carrie is like that too. All you need to do is listen to how she talks and look at the contents of her bookshelf. She’s not our standard teenager, and this is what makes her unique. She’s not as wound up towards the end of the film. Our supporting cast around her help her understand the world a bit more, such as her teacher (Colin O’Donoghue) and her next-door neighbour Cy (William Moseley).
This is a story about relationships, romantic or otherwise. It’s about trying to understand a world that doesn’t understand you. With great performances and a script that brings a meaning to “The Young Person’s” life, Carrie Pilby is certainly up there with Perks, Edge and their ilk.