MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 6, 2020: INBETWEEN GIRL

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Relatable and honest, with a healthy dash of artistic quirk, InBetween Girl feels like the adaptation of a cool YA graphic novel — but it’s all direct from the brain of writer/director Mei Makino, making her feature debut alongside star Emma Galbraith. Together, these two talented women tell the coming-of-age story of Galveston high schooler Angie (Galbraith) as she navigates love, sex, friendship, high school, and her parents’ divorce.

Angie isn’t part of the “in” crowd at school, but she gets to know BMOC Liam (William Magnuson) through their daily rides home from sports practice. He has a girlfriend, Sheryl (Emily Garrett), but Angie doesn’t think much of Sheryl’s image-driven, social-media-influencer persona. Which is why, when Liam comes over one night and makes it clear that he wants more than friendship from her, Angie doesn’t say no, even though he wants to keep their hook-ups quiet. But her conscience starts to kick in after she and Sheryl are assigned to do a school project together, and Angie realizes that there’s much more to the other girl than meets the eye.

At the same time that she’s torn between love and friendship, Angie is also smack in the middle of her parents, whose constant fighting has finally led them to divorce. Her dad quickly finds a new love — who has her own teenage daughter, a veritable paragon of achievement — and her mom self-medicates by overworking, all of which leaves Angie feeling more adrift and unseen than ever. She finds comfort in the art she makes (sketches with lots of personality), but what she really needs is connection. She thinks she’s found that in Liam, but…what if it’s really Sheryl?

Makino mixes plenty of humor in with Angie’s coming-of-age drama and angst, and Galbraith balances it all beautifully — Angie feels like a real teen dealing with real problems. And, just like in real life, everything isn’t necessarily going to wrap up neatly for Angie. This isn’t a teen movie with a fairy-tale ending, but it is one with relatable characters and a story that feels authentic, and no one needs a fairy godmother to know how magical that can be. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Marilyn Ferdinand Teen romance, teen sex, teen angst—we’ve seen these subjects before, but never with quite the sincerity that shines from Mei Makino’s debut feature film Inbetween Girl. Makino’s accomplished screenplay benefits greatly from the natural and knowing performance of her leading lady, Emma Galbraith, as the artistically inclined, mixed-race Angie, who is trying to negotiate the separation of her parents and some fraught relationships with new people in her life. Cinematographer Ivy Chiu makes the most of the natural and unique beauty of Galveston, where the film is set. I also found KaiChow Lau’s performance as Angie’s father quite interesting and moving. Take a young person you love to see it.

Loren King Coming-of-age films usually ride on the strength and believability of the character who’s coming of age. That’s the case with Angie Chen, played by winning newcomer Emma Galbraith, in InBetween Girl, writer/director Mei Makino’s likable debut feature. A quirky artist and athlete at her Texas Episcopal school where she’s long been the only Asian American, Angie struggles between envy and contempt for the popular set; between wanting independence and embrace from her laid back parents; between being “cool” and yearning for acceptance and romance. She finds the latter with handsome jock Liam who just happens to be entangled with one of the school’s prettiest and most popular girls. Meanwhile, Angie’s parents are divorcing: her Mom works constantly and her Dad, the Chinese half of the unit, has found himself a new Chinese girlfriend with a teenage daughter. The interlopers represent all the traditions such as making dumplings and speaking Mandarin that Angie didn’t get growing up. It’s a lot for even this bright and self-assured teen to handle and that’s what makes Angie’s journey so engaging, aided by Galbraith’s fully realized performance. The film reaches for the high-bar of such original coming of age movies as Booksmart and Diary of a Teenage Girl which makes Makino a filmmaker to watch.

Pam Grady: Angie Chen (Emma Galbraith) is a talented artist and a whip-smart student but she is also a teenager in the throes of self-doubt exacerbated by her parents’ sudden divorce. Into this scenario troops Liam (William Magnuson), charming, popular, and into Angie – at least privately. How Angie copes with her anger at her mom and dad while navigating the throes of a challenging first love is the subject of this often funny, sometimes poignant coming-of-age drama. First-time writer-director Mei Makino has crafted a story that authentically reflects the emotional turmoil of adolescence and fills the screen with relatable characters. Galbraith is a standout in her first feature role, a charismatic performer who wholly inhabits Angie’s roiling emotions.

Leslie Combemale Sometimes that expression ‘coming of age’ sounds so charming it underplays the fact that teen life is like watching a series of mistakes happen in slow motion. InBetween Girl really leans into reminding us what total crap growing up can be. It also offers an opportunity to watch newcomer Emma Galbraith as Angie beautifully embody a brash, confused, often self-effacing girl whom many will recognize from their own lives, though Angie has the added challenge of being an Asian-American teen. Writer/director Mei Makino has built a believable world and fully-formed characters, layering thoughtful elements around invisibility and the sexualization of bodies of color in what is, at the core, an entertaining story.

Jennifer Merin Writer/director Mei Makino’s first feature, Inbetween Girl, is an engaging coming-of-age story centering on Angie Chen, an independent teenage artist who is unhappily enrolled in a rather repressive private school, but uses her innate smarts and drawing skills to express her rebellious instincts, work out her family problems and explore all concerns raised by her adolescent’s curiosity. Makino’s directorial attention to detail and authenticity makes the flick compelling and young Emma Galbraith — starring in her first feature — gives an entirely and genuinely relatable performance that has you rooting for Angie all the way. Makino and Galbraith are two very talented women who are just embarking on their filmmaking careers. For those who seek respite from angst, this charming film provides genuine relief.

Sandie Angulo Chen: Mei Makino’s directorial debut Inbetween Girl is a nuanced and surprisingly touching coming-of-age drama led by actor Emma Galbraith’s fantastic performance as Angie Chen. Angie, the titular character, is a half-Chinese, half-White young artist whose parents divorce the same year she experiences her first love affair. She struggles with all the ways she feels lesser than (not Chinese enough, not quite a girlfriend, not at all in a healthy relationship with either of her parents). Nuanced and naturalistic, the movie is a reminder that teen dramas, when done right, can be memorable and relevant.

Cate Marquis In the winning coming of age tale Inbetween Girl, Angie Chen (Emma Galbraith) struggles with the difficulties of adolescence along with some additional challenges, as an artistically-talented girl attending an repressive private school on Galveston Island, Texas, where she is, as she puts it, the sole “diversity pick.” As the daughter of a white mother and Asian father, now divorced, she feels like she doesn’t quite fit anywhere, and escapes into the world of her often-funny cartoon-style drawings while recording her video diary. Angie feels awkward, nerdy and overlooked, particularly by her friend Liam, on whom she has a secret crush. Inbetween Girl is so polished, so involving and so down-to-earth real, that it is hard to believe that this is writer/director Mei Makino’s first feature and star Emma Galbraith’s acting debut. Galbraith’s Angie is appealing and completely real in this engaging film, as she learns about friendship, love, boys, and family and about not making assumptions about someone before you really get to know them.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Inbetween Girl

Directors: Mei Makino

Release Date: May 12, 2022

Running Time: 89 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriter: Mei Makino

Distribution Company: Utopia

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).