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In Return to Sender (2015), Miranda (the main character) makes it seem like she has some kind of OCD, or phobia with germs and some kind of obsession with pens. What is the deal with the pens? Are they related to her phobia of germs, or was it explained and then cut out?

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I asked my good friend Patricia Beauchamp (the film's co-Screenwriter) what her original intention was for Miranda.

Q. Probably a daft question, but is Miranda a germ-phobe or just OCD?

Patricia Beauchamp: We conceived her as controlling & very particular more than OCD or germaphobic.


That being said, several of the film's actors, in publicity interviews have described Miranda's condition as being very OCD-like

Q: What is it about Rosamund Pike [Miranda] that she can seem so sweet and innocent and then have this horrible, deceptive, mysterious thing going on?

Camryn Manheim [Nancy]: I know! I was a little scared to work with her! But she really couldn’t have been more lovely — so prepared and professional. It was kind of alarming how quickly she could turn into this creepy, meticulous OCD woman.

and

Q. So in your own words, would you mind telling me what your new film, RETURN TO SENDER is about?

Shiloh Fernandez [William]: Yeah, I’ll do my best. I’m not super great at discriptions, (Laughs) but I would say that it’s about a nurse who has a little bit of OCD. She wants everything to be perfect and always wants to be in control and she sort of has no love life. Her co-workers set her up on this blind date and she’s getting ready and she sees that this guy is early and she’s upset about that, but she opens the door and they sort of have… (Pauses) Am I allowed to tell you everything about the movie or do I have to keep it sort of non… I mean I’ll be giving everything away, wont I, if I tell you this?

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It's simply that she's a mysophobe (a.k.a. a germaphobe). There's actually quite a sizeable number of people who appear to be concerned about germ transfer through holding pens.

  • There are companies selling pen-holders and pen-sanitisers designed to eliminate bacteria and common viruses on them.
  • There are personal styluses that are being kickstarted to help people avoid touching any touchscreens in public, such as at an ATM.
  • There are news articles in reputable newspapers advising us that borrowing pens could cause food poisoning.

The result of this is mysophobes advising to bring your own pens for health reasons.

So that's the reason for all the pens.

Of course, in the grand scheme of the (fairly poor) film, it doesn't exactly come across that clearly.

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