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You’ve seen the simple construct of In a Relationship a dozen times before. The movie explores the lives of young millennials living in Los Angeles and the ups and downs of their relationships. Writer-director Sam Boyd – expounding upon his short film of the same name – doesn’t bring much new to the familiar terrain – and yet, In a Relationship totally works.

Hallie (Emma Roberts) and Owen (Michael Angarano) have been dating for a while and are basically living together. Hallie stays over most nights, they have mutual friends and attend the same parties together (usually culminating in a fight over something petty). When Owen finds out his rent is increasing and he might have to find somewhere cheaper to live, Hallie poses the idea that she moves in. She does her best to not come off as “the nagging girlfriend,” and pitches the idea based on practicality. Hallie isn’t fooling anyone; she wants more from her relationship with Owen. He is a bit more hesitant, causing them to “take a break” but “not break up” (honestly, haven’t these kids seen F.R.I.E.N.D.S.?)

“…the lives of young millennials…and the ups and downs of their relationships…”

In the mix are Hallie and Owen’s friend Matt (Patrick Gibson), who is instantly infatuated with Hallie’s cousin Willa (Dree Hemingay) and brings her back to his parent’s house after a Fourth of July party (Matt’s parents are in Atlanta working on a new Marvel movie. This movie is very L.A.) Matt and Willa couldn’t be farther from a match but there is a connection between them, even if it means more to one than it does the other.

Hallie and Owen are positioned as the focal point of In a Relationship because we are supposed to be drawn into the tug-o-war of will they get back together or won’t they. The movie spends just as much time with Matt and Willa, who are the more interesting characters with a richer dynamic. As Matt, Gibson makes a strong case to lead his own film and his work here could successfully segue his career into that happening. He offers an endearing vulnerability, which creates some of the most honest moments in the movie.

“…doesn’t bring much new to the familiar terrain, yet…totally works.”

In a Relationship doesn’t break any new ground and Boyd understands that. Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel, he focuses on his character’s flaws and insecurities offering biting one-liners and honest moments that elevated In a Relationship to a bit above the norm. Finding an equal balance of laugh-out-loud moments and dramatic examination, Boyd has created a genuine slice-of-life that will ring true to a lot of people.

In a Relationship (2018) Written and directed by Sam Boyd. Starring Michael Angarano, Emma Roberts, Patrick Gibson and Dree Hemingway. In a Relationship screened as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Grade: B

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