Evoking the 90s classic Ghost, Paramount+ original movie The In Between is an adorable otherworldly romance that comes right at the perfect time of year: the movie-starved opening stretch. In normal non-pandemic times, January is typically referred to as the “dump month,” where many studios dump whatever projects they feel like, and with minimal chance of competition considering the slim pickings. The In Between skips theaters and heads straight for your friendly neighborhood streaming service. It is a win for hopeless romantics everywhere, and those in desperate need of a solid tear-jerker to open up the floodgates.
The In Between begins in the aftermath of a tragic car accident, with two lives seeming to hang in the balance. Within minutes we have answers: the girl has made it (with a rupture in her heart due to trauma), and the boy has sadly died. What happened here? It is time to flashback 182 days into the past… Tessa (Joey King), photographer and avid movie lover, meets rowing jock and bonafide sweetheart, Skylar (Kyle Allen), in the best meet-cute orchestrated in awhile: alone at an empty movie theater. When the projectionist plays a foreign film sans subtitles, Skylar swoops to Tessa’s rescue by offering to sit next to her and translate the film for her. He is actually fluent in several languages, and makes a pretty damn solid first impression on Tessa’s fragile young mind.
What follows from here is easy to guess for one segment of the storyline, but the creators behind The In Between have taken things one step further by focusing half the action on Tessa’s present-day attempts to recover from Skylar’s horrible, untimely death. Small things like a familiar ringtone, hearing her name, or feeling a presence by her side tells Tessa that maybe Skylar still has unfinished business, lingering somehow. She is filled with regret over not professing her love properly, and if a local psychic named Doris is to be believed, Skylar may actually be still clinging to earth. He is somewhere in the in between, Doris says, and in a few weeks at the most he could be gone forever.
This introduces a ticking clock element to Skylar and Tessa’s love that draws closer to its natural conclusion, even as the movie fills in its audience members about the specifics of their unique relationship. Skylar’s firm belief that “love never dies” seemed too good to be true in life, but in death, it could be everything. Tessa races to figure out how to connect with Skylar, or how to help him move on, while still coping with his physical loss. I have to admit this movie openly tugged with my heartstrings. It made me feel for Skylar in particular, filled with the promise of a life he will never be able to fulfill. They plan to go to Paris together someday, to go off to school together, to make their relationship work no matter what the cost. Alas, the man upstairs had other plans.
It goes without saying that I absolutely adore both of these lead actors. Joey King has excelled in a number of projects, but in particular her work in The Conjuring and The Kissing Booth films is among her best. Kyle Allen, meanwhile, made a lasting impression with a scene-stealing performance in West Side Story, and a semi-lead role in American Horror Story: Apocalypse. However, two great people does not beget an automatic excellence in the chemistry department. Palpable romantic fireworks are a difficult thing to nail just right—thankfully, The Chumscrubber director Arie Posin is able to tap into a rare and tangible underpinning of naiveté and young love.
Clocking in around two hours, The In Between may seem to have a bloated runtime at first glance. However, it never feels to be dragging things out for no reason. Each flashback sequence fleshes out our characters just a little bit more, and even the eventual depiction of the accident itself is necessary to the endgame. I already loved the song, but now INXS tune “Never Tear Us Apart” has officially shifted onto my permanent playlist. It would have been easy for The In Between to be just another throwaway romance; instead, this supernatural love story is one for a new generation to obsess over endlessly.
The In Between tethers itself to your soul when it debuts exclusively on Paramount+ on Friday, February 11th.