NEW TO VOD! In co-writer/director Mindy Bledsoe’s drama The In-Between, Mads (co-writer Jennifer Stone) and Junior (Bledsoe) are best friends who set out on a road trip starting in Los Angeles. The problem is that they are barely functional as adults and are beset with layers of issues that range from crippling emotional damage to physical illness. Mads is diabetic, and Junior has a self-diagnosed chronic pain syndrome.
Mads needs to go to South Dakota to renew her driver’s license while Junior is making a memorial pilgrimage to Portland to honor her dead sister, hoping for liberating catharsis. They had planned to visit Portland to see the world’s smallest park (a tree planted in a median strip, which is appropriately called “Portlandia”). Along the way, she leaves shot glasses in all the places they would have seen together.
In the city, they stay with Mads’ brother Miles (Rane Jameson), a successful software engineer living in a beautiful downtown loft. His life seems to be the antithesis of theirs as an organized and healthy adult. But, the real fun starts when Mads reveals a secret she’s been keeping that will change the whole vibe of the trip.
Like the main characters, The In-Between is an uneven film. There are transcendent moments of pure gold captured in the pathos of Junior processing her past and dealing with the consequences and in Mads struggling to understand what happened with her mother. However, the viewer is subjected to their erratic mood swings, particularly when dealing with each other, in which they are simultaneously codependent and narcissistic. For buddies, who profess deep affection and undying friendship, complete with saccharine nicknames, they are unbelievably cruel and thoughtless toward each other.
“…Mads and Junior are best friends who set out on a road trip starting in Los Angeles.”
No one questions Junior’s pain syndrome, resulting from a car crash she survived. She has elaborate ceremonies and special clothing to deal with her varying levels of pain. Her suffering and emotional response to the illness are very public. Mads, by contrast, never complains about her diabetes. Her insulin pump is visible at one point when she’s working out, but she bears the illness with stoic dignity. Real-world note here: Jennifer Stone actually has Type 1 diabetes and wanted to include that condition for her character to raise awareness.
The general wisdom of screenwriting is that the more specific and detailed a situation is, the more generally it applies as relatable and sympathetic. This notion falls apart in The In-Between as we endure pointless time trapped in the car with these two. In the vehicle, they are either being unbearably infantile, horrible to each other, or jamming out to their favorite tunes, which, if the song isn’t your favorite, goes on for far too long. But the three screenwriters — Bledsoe, Stone, and Rob Senksa — never allow things to become too broad or absurd.
It’s tempting to say the characters are unrealistic, but the fact is you probably know people like Mads and Junior, so in that regard, the film authentically captures the angst and ennui of these characters and real-life people like them. Sometimes the situations are so unflinchingly authentic they are cringe-inducing. The writing is solid, and the film is nicely photographed.
The In-Between is not for everyone. But there is an audience who will appreciate the highs and lows in the relationship between the two women as they navigate the harsh realities of their world, lacking the adult skills and temperament to do so. Unlike the immaturity of her character, first-time director Mindy Bledsoe shows great maturity and promise as a filmmaker.
"…there are transcendent moments of pure gold..."