2022, NR, 90 min. Directed by Mei Makino. Starring Emma Galbraith, William Magnuson, Emily Garrett.
REVIEWED By Selome Hailu, Fri., May 6, 2022
“I don’t find brown water to be aesthetically pleasing,” says 16-year-old artist Angie Chen. Oh, to come of age surrounded by the beautiful beaches of Galveston.
As the titular Inbetween Girl, Angie (Galbraith) is mature, but still confused. She’s the token Asian at her Episcopalian high school, a source of discomfort only magnified by the fact that she’s biracial and lives with her white mother after her parents’ recent split. She feels disconnected from her father’s Chinese culture, resentful about the divorce, and restless about being stuck in her hometown, but she’s also deliciously self-aware. “You’ve probably forgotten all about me,” she tells Future Angie in a time capsule. “The last few years have been kinda complete shit.” She understands that her life isn’t tragic, but validates her own frustrations nonetheless.
Angie navigates her angst by throwing herself into an “affair,” which is apparently when a teenage girl sneaks around with a teenage boy who already has a teenage girlfriend. Liam (Magnuson) is handsome, popular, and kind, except for his refusal to break up with Instagram model Sheryl (Garrett) and date Angie in public.
It’s a love triangle that’s been written again and again, but Inbetween Girl remains inventive by resisting the overdone offshoots of that trope. There’s no BFF-betrayal subplot, Angie isn’t seeking popularity, and she knows that Liam isn’t her savior. Makino defines her protagonist’s growth outside of the love interest, using Angie’s art to communicate what dialogue can’t and, of course, opening Angie’s mind to the solace a Galveston beach day can bring.
The South by Southwest 2021 Visions award winner, Inbetween Girl, made by a crew full of UT-Austin alumni led by writer/director Mei Makino, is a witty and wonderfully Texan piece of art. What’s loveliest is where things end between Angie and her “rival,” Sheryl. A massive part of the real-life coming-of-age process is understanding that everyone has unique boundaries and that forgiveness is more complicated than “I’m sorry” and “It’s okay.” But that lesson is absent from so many teen films, especially those which shallowly attempt to prove that a girl can do whatever she wants with a little bit of moxie. Makino finds a way to uplift the young women she writes without any cloying girlboss idealism, and that level of nuance is what these Texan teens deserve.
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March 3, 2024
Sept. 10, 2021
Now: "We are just so happy we're still around."