There are times when watching films that you find a hidden gem amongst all the seemingly endless list of choices to watch. Director Mei Makino’s 2021 SXSW ‘Visions’ Award winner, “INBETWEEN GIRL” is just that gem.
The film is framed in a personal and unflinching manner than what one might expect. It is charming, raw, funny, and truly tackles teen-age romance and sexuality pretty head-on, but in a way that is realistic and mature. It’s all about Angie Chen (Emma Galbraith), a young, pretty Chinese-American girl attending an Episcopalian private school in Galveston, Texas with a flair for drawing. While she is friends with Liam (William Magnuson), the stereotypical school jock who all the girls adore, eyebrows and all, that’s seemingly all there is to it. He gives her rides home each day from soccer practice and they begin to get to know each other, with their friendship beginning to border on something more. Truthfully she could easily fall for him if not for his girlfriend, Sheryl (Emily Garrett), a model/social media influencer who ends up being her partner in a class project, becoming her friend as well, making things all the more complicated. You get a sense of where it’s headed but even still, Makino somehow makes it all feel fresh and full of energy and heart, as well as a learning experience of life.
The dramatic heart and center of the film, also come from her troubles at home as her newly divorced parents make things all the more confusing in Angie’s life. She is living with her mother Veronica (Liz Waters), a lawyer whom is always working, leaving Angie to fend for herself for things like meals, homework, and most notable, her social life. As well, she is feeling distanced from her father Fai (KaiChow Lau), whom she cherishes but seemingly has instantly found a new, better family already with Min (ShanShan Jin), and her daughter Fang (Thanh Phuong Bui). Both of whom speak her father’s native Mandarin dialect and with whom she feels replaced by.
Between the difficulties with her love life and her home life, Angie struggles to come of age as simply as one would expect. While there is a good deal of levity to break up the dramatic plots, there is a natural charm and heartfelt good nature about the film that overcomes any small shortcomings it might have. It’s a winning little film that is beautifully told and acted as Emma Galbraith is a breath of fresh air to this role, that is rarely ever played by someone of mixed race, but she proves there should be more. Even our manipulating cad of a male lead – William Magnuson, puts a star next to his performance here.
This film so deserves to find an audience that will fall in love with this tale we’ve heard before, but truly told in it’s own angsty manner of everything facing a teenage girl. The mistakes, family, drama, happiness, and friendships that shape us into who we are. The film as well, explores the relationships between having a Chinese father/American mother – and how difficult your heritage can be to navigate when that family unit splits. This is one film that no one should miss!
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Review screener: Courtesy of Caitlyn Hughes PR
You can stream Mei Makino’s “Inbetween Girl” on major VOD services beginning on May 3.