SXSW 2021: ‘Inbetween Girl’ Is A Heartfelt Portrait of Adolescence

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Inbetween Girl

Inbetween Girl is a film written and directed by Mei Makino in her big screen debut. The film follows teenager Angie Chen (Emma Galbraith), who attends an Episcopalian school in Galveston and manages to express herself through her drawings. Angie’s life seems to be falling apart: her parents have split up and her father is dating another woman who unknowingly puts pressure on her to be more “perfect.” To further add to Angie’s problems, she enters into a clandestine tryst with her friend/crush Liam (William Magnuson)-despite the fact that Liam has a girlfriend.

The coming of age film is one of my all-time favorite genres of film. Adolescence is a messy thing: in addition to dealing with raging hormones and a pointless social hierarchy, teenagers begin to learn that the world will throw you curveballs that you might not be ready for. Makino’s story perfectly captures the ups and downs of teenage life, particularly where Angie’s relationship with her parents and Liam are concerned. She had to deal with her parents’ fighting up until the day they split, and she doesn’t feel connected to her overly busy mother as well as ostracized by her father’s new girlfriend.

Similarly, the complicated relationship between Angie and Liam is an underlying element of the film, given weight by Galbraith and Magnuson’s performances. They perfectly capture all the awkwardness of those teenage years, as well as the awkwardness of sexual encounters with your best friend. Angie and Liam’s first time is far from perfect: he has to get scissors out to open a condom and she feels uncomfortable when they first start. But as it goes on, feelings between the two grow more complicated and soon Angie befriends Liam’s girlfriend Sheryl (Emily Garrett). Garrett has what’s probably the most underrated performance in the film, as Sheryl turns out to be a far cry from the vapid Instagram influencer Angie thought she was. It all leads up to several explosive confrontations toward the film’s ending that will rip the audience’s heart out.

Makino chooses a unique framing device for the film, choosing to have Angie discuss the events of the film with her future self via a series of videotapes. Not only does this continue to be a great way for Galbraith to showcase her talents, it also gives off a raw honesty that lends heart to the film. You can’t lie to yourself, after all (Well you can try, but as Angie learns throughout the film that rarely works.) Also peppering the film is honest, yet razor sharp dialogue courtesy of Makino’s screenplay. She wrote the film based on her own experiences and even cast Galbraith due to said experiences, so that honesty shines through in certain scenes-including a super uncomfortable one where Sheryl’s mother asks Angie what kind of Asian she is. On the lighter side, a scene where Angie wonders what her male classmates would be like in bed are accompanied with the appropriate sketches.

Inbetween Girl portrays adolescence in all its messy glory and serves as a wonderful directorial debut for Mei Makino. As someone who enjoys films like Booksmart and The Perks of Being A Wallflower, it’s a great addition to the “coming of age” genre and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

Inbetween Girl premiered this Thursday at SXSW in the Visions section.

 

Inbetween Girl
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    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Inbetween Girl portrays adolescence in all its messy glory and serves as a wonderful directorial debut for Mei Makino. As someone who enjoys films like Booksmart and The Perks of Being A Wallflower, it’s a great addition to the “coming of age” genre and I highly recommend giving it a watch.