Mindy Bledsoe writes, directs, and co-stars in The In-Between, her first feature, a road trip drama about complex friendships and dealing with grief. Junior (Bledsoe) and Mads (Jennifer Stone, TVs The Wizards of Waverly Place) are extremely close, bonding over shared tragedies and chronic illnesses. They embark on a multi-purpose road trip toeing plenty of baggage (both psychical and emotional) as they go the long way from L.A. to Portland. What sets this film apart from other road trip dramas is the fact that Mads and Junior both suffer from chronic illnesses that color their lives and make adulting a challenge. Bledsoe’s debut is a beautiful tribute to sisterly bonds and learning to let go.
Mads, a diabetic, likes to return to her childhood home in South Dakota every 4 years to renew her drivers’ license and ruminate over her upbringing. For Junior, the trip is a sort reenactment of one she took with her sister, Victoria, that ended in tragedy just short of their final destination. Only Junior survived the car accident, but she came away with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (Type 2) – a chronic condition that painfully debilitates her arms and hands without a steady diet of painkillers and weed.
Both Mads and Junior “look” healthy. And yet, their illnesses impact their lives on a daily basis. Mads believes that her diabetes is the reason her mom bailed when she was a small child, leaving her under the care of her brother, only 5 years her senior. Junior is a self-described “struggling writer with defunct hands”. Bledsoe and Stone both share chronic conditions with their onscreen counterparts and felt it was important to include them in the film in an attempt to normalize something that millions of people (especially women) experience. People with invisible illnesses are often accused of all kinds of behavioral deficiencies such as being “difficult” or “selfish” when really, they are just doing what they must to get through the day. There’s a fun Aronofsky-style montage of Mads and Junior, but instead of recreational narcotics, they’re taking their respective prescribed medications.
But The In-Between is about so much more than chronic illnesses. It’s also about unbalanced friendships, loneliness, grief, and the ways in which people are compelled to overcome loss, even at the expense of the ones who love them the most. Mads and Junior have the sort of holistic friendship one rarely sees on screen. Perhaps that’s because the two are friends in real life. We can feel the depth of their connection even as they drive in silence, or sing along to music as they make their way to their destinations. Victoria was a musician, and Junior plays her tunes along the way, with a recurring motif of the two friends attempting to learn a difficult part of one of the songs. Junior leaves Victoria’s shot glasses in all the places they visit in honor of the deceased.
It’s a beautiful trip replete with breathtaking scenery shots by cinematographer Rob Senska to orient the viewer to their surroundings. But every road trip film needs some conflict, and here it takes the form of a secret that Mads is keeping from Junior. Mads frequently takes private phone calls with her brother, Miles, who is hot on the trail of their missing mother. Mads longs to confront her about why she walked out so many years ago and never looked back. Unfortunately, there’s a timing issue involved that may mean Mads will have to bail on Junior before their trip is through.
The In-Between doesn’t wrap things up in a tidy little bow, which also lends credence to the veracity of the story telling. Instead, Bledsoe’s lovely script is exactly what the title suggests. These two women are in transition. They’re traveling on to the next chapter in their lives. And it’s a joy to watch it happen.
– Jessica Baxter (@tehBaxter)