The Relationtrip Is Weird in All the Right Places

High-speed romance kicks love into overdrive

They go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Peanut butter on one side, jelly on the other. Smoosh them together. Instant classic. Unless it's too goopy and it oozes outside the crust and makes everything sticky and weird. As apt a metaphor for relationships as any. Filmmakers C.A. Gabriel and Renée Felice Smith met in grade school, stayed close friends, and officially started dating each other at 23. That long-term commitment parlayed into an interest in watching high-speed dysfunction burn out other couples' chemistry, and inspired their feature-length debut, The Relationtrip.

"Because we've been together so long, we watched single friends of ours navigate that world of dating," says Gabriel. "I feel like a lot of people who are our age now and still single, see their friends settling down and having babies and getting married and there's this rush that happens, where they're trying to catch up. They rush into relationships, which is usually, like, pretty catastrophic. That gave us the idea for our film: What if these two people went away together and did exactly that?"

Beck and Liam, two anti-relationship loners, bond over their shared distaste for the trappings of love. They're decidedly against coupley things, so naturally, on their first encounter they decide to embark on a weekend road trip. Together, with no one else. "We heightened all of those relationship milestones that you hit within traditional relationships within weeks or months or years, over the course of a three-day weekend," adds Smith.

It takes about 20 minutes until what initially seems a straight-up indie rom-com gets weird when Chippy, a Jim Henson-type reject with a personality somewhere in the neighborhood of Inside Out's Disgust and Seth McFarlane's Ted, appears. "Aside from Chris and I just realizing a childhood dream of making a movie with a puppet, the idea of Chippy's character was specifically designed as a physicalization of that asshole voice in all of our heads that tells us that we're not good enough. That we're too fat, we're too weird, we don't deserve to be loved, that voice that creeps back in when insecurity rears its ugly head," says Smith.

A testament to how the entire film was made – call it DIY surrealism – Gabriel scored the film and learned to play that otherworldly instrument, the theremin. "Most of what I did, I probably wouldn't have been allowed to do for any other film. It's invasive at times and very weird, but I feel like it works." Inspired by time-lapse videos of butterfly metamorphosis, the duo was also fixated on an idea of a hammock-turned-cocoon that resulted in stop-motion animation segments. "[Damon Stea and Cassandra Chowdhury of Mindfruit] understood that we actually appreciate the rustic, disjointed style. We didn't want it to be super smooth and glossy. We wanted it to look very organic," Smith explains. "We just kind of leaned into that, embraced that, and that's what you see in the film."

K-Ci & JoJo's "All My Life" serves as a pivotal backdrop, and the directing duo believe that, as the "ultimate slow-dance makeout song of the late Nineties," it was an obvious choice. Maybe there really is another side of the sandwich for everyone.

The Relationtrip


Saturday, March 11, 11am, Alamo South Lamar
Monday, March 13, 9:15pm, Stateside
Wednesday, March 15, 11am, Alamo South Lamar

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Unleashing the <i>Hounds of Love</i>
Unleashing the Hounds of Love
Director Ben Young on his serial-killer couple drama

Richard Whittaker, May 12, 2017

Ben Wheatley  Catches <i>Free Fire</i>
Ben Wheatley Catches Free Fire
Director on making his U.S. action debut

Richard Whittaker, April 21, 2017

More by Jessi Cape
<i>Chronicle</i> Food Editor's 10 Favorite Austin Restaurants
Chronicle Food Editor's 10 Favorite Austin Restaurants
Jessi Cape names her favorite eateries of 2021

July 30, 2021

Local Cannabiz Hometown Hero Fought Delta-8 Ban and Won
Local Cannabiz Hometown Hero Fought Delta-8 Ban and Won
“Hemp and cannabis industries here in Texas have never had a brighter future”

July 16, 2021


The Relationtrip, SXSW 2017, SXSW Film 2017, C.A. Gabriel, Renée Felice Smith

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle