My parents were the ones who recommended Carrie Pilby to me. I know that may not sound like a typically convincing line, but it’s actually pretty great. My dad works in the movie and television industry and my mom has fairly specific taste, so when they texted me to tell me about this movie, it caught my attention.
Part of Carrie Pilby’s brilliance is its simplicity. There isn’t anything particularly spectacular about the filmmaking itself, it just lets you follow the story. I’m all for artistic touches, but I actually appreciate that the director chose to simply take me on Carrie’s journey. Also, the movie takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, so it immediately placed me in that comfy, cozy happy place that autumn and the holidays inspire. Overall, it’s the perfect movie to enjoy with your fuzzy socks, blanket, candles, and hot beverage of choice.
Director Susan Johnson (Destiny Stalled)’s Carrie Pilby tells the story of a 19-year-old girl who has an unusually high IQ. So high, in fact, that she’s already graduated from Harvard University. She now spends her days alone in her New York City apartment, reading books and occasionally venturing out for compulsory visits to her therapist (Nathan Lane, Modern Family), paid for by her estranged father (Gabriel Byrne, Louder than Bombs) in London. On one of these occasions, her therapist gives her a list of things to enjoy as a way to get her engaged with life. Her assignment is to accomplish each one of the following goals by the end of the year:
Go on a date
Make a friend
Spend New Year’s Eve with someone
Get a pet
Do something you loved as a child
Read a favorite book
Sounds like a list we could all try from time to time.
Carrie Pilby is about knowing and being known. It’s about allowing ourselves to live a little and allowing others to be their flawed, wonderful human selves. We will inevitably let each other down now and again, it’s true. But we can also be there for one another. Carrie Pilby is a movie that illustrates that in a way that made me laugh and allowed for a little generous self-reflection.
Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) shines as Carrie as she strikes the delicate balance of portraying a character that is perfectly healthy, and yet who struggles socially. This type of character can quickly be played as a nerdy stereotype, but Bel plays Carrie very naturally. At the end of the day, she’s just a teenager that’s been thrust into an adult’s world. Anyone would struggle to cope! And on top of that, Carrie still sees the world in black-and-white terms. She’s very quick to denounce things as hypocrisy and she leaves little room for humans to simply be what they are: complicated and flawed. But as she goes through her list she finds freedom in letting people be who they are around her and accepting them. The depth she is written with creates a very human figure that brings catharsis to her audience.
I personally related to her character quite a bit (no, I’m not a teenage Harvard graduate). I had a lot of empathy for her because I too used to struggle with rigidly holding people to expectations that I’d created for them (or even the ones that society had created for them. Who made me the behavior police, am I right?). I used to get so frustrated when people were late or when plans fell through. I refused to understand that life happens, and we just have to do our best. And everyone’s best looks different. My stubbornness created so much unnecessary tension and disappointment when I could have just let people be people.
I’ve come a long way, you guys. Fortunately, so does Carrie Pilby. While her father and therapist are flawed humans, much like the rest of us, they are trying their best to help Carrie live a little. And as she tentatively makes her way through her therapist’s list, she finds that, though people may not measure up to her exacting standards, they are still worth knowing.
Carrie Pilby is a film that allowed me to revisit my own journey of learning to let loose and enjoy life and those around me. So many times I just shook my head fondly at Carrie, remembering my own Pilby-esque days and thanking heaven above that I’ve since learned to relax. I do still struggle sometimes, I’ll be honest, but I’ve also gained so much freedom. I was able to rejoice with Carrie as she found hers too.
What’s on your list of goals?