When I saw the trailer for the new Paramount+ film The In Between, I thought it was some sort of confusing interquel in the After series with Josephine Langford’s Tessa bafflingly recast as Joey King. The main character is named Tessa, she’s seen kissing a generic looking handsome tall guy and the title of the film is a vague preposition. My mistake.
The In Between is a totally new take on the teen romantic drama genre: A girl is torn apart by the heartbreak of her boyfriend deciding to go to college all the way across the country from her. Wait, that’s not new – that’s the plot of To All the Boys: Always and Forever and the plot of Joey King’s own magnum opus, The Kissing Booth 2. Surely it isn’t just regurgitated aspects of Netflix-produced teen romance movies; this one has ghosts, hideous movie theater uniforms and a trauma-induced wavy bob haircut – just like 13 Reasons Why.
The fact that I realized all of this is either a sign that (a) I watch way too many trashy movies meant for thirteen-year-olds in my free time, or (b) a dead giveaway that Paramount+’s only goal with this movie was to be as appealing to the youth as Netflix. It honestly feels like they made this movie using a checklist of all the current trends in teen dramas. To be fair, they’re trends for a reason. I fell for it. Upon discovering there was a new romance movie out featuring romcom actress extraordinaire Joey King, I immediately got out my laptop to watch it. And while I was very aware that it was a blatant attempt to get money by throwing every overused trope into a film together, I liked it.
In my defense, the romance was there. The meet cute was, well, cute. When the local movie theater mistakenly plays a version of French film Betty Blue without subtitles, mysterious and handsome stranger Skylar (Kyle Allen) offers to translate the film for Tessa (King), who happens to be the only other person in the theater. By the end of the film, Tessa is gripping Skylar’s hand and crying over the film as he continues to whisper the translation in her ear. It’s corny, but am I jealous? Yes. It also helps that King had infinitely more chemistry with Allen than she did with Kissing Booth co-star Jacob Elordi, despite the fact that she dated Elordi in real life.
Most of The In Between’s romantic appeal hinges on how unrealistic of a character Skylar is. He’s essentially the closest thing to a perfect man to ever walk the earth. He’s sweet, kind, intelligent, athletic, tall and romantic. He’s also “analog,” which apparently means he never uses social media. This makes him quirky enough to complement Tessa’s character, a misunderstood, edgy film photographer. (When I say she’s a photographer, I mean they literally never let you forget that she’s a photographer; there are scenes where they could replace Tessa with a camera and it would work.)
The tear-inducing part of the film, a must in all of the best trashy romance movies, is Skylar’s death. All of the scenes Tessa and Skylar spend getting to know each other are actually flashbacks, and that’s not even a spoiler. The whole plot is that Skylar died in a tragic car accident that Tessa doesn’t remember, despite also being in the accident. It’s extra tragic because she’s in agony over not telling him she loved him before he died. Throughout the film, Skylar is “in between” life and the afterlife as he tries to contact Tessa. Get it? That’s the name of the film. Pretty clever.
Now for the actual spoilers: in a totally predictable twist, Tessa magically (Skylar literally uses his ghost magic) remembers the car accident. It turns out that, even though Skylar made the typical love interest mistake of wanting to go to college far away, Tessa did tell him she loved him just before he died. If you think that’s dumb, then get this: he died because the two of them were making out in the middle of the street when a car almost ran over both of them, but Skylar noticed at the last second and pushed Tessa out of the way, sacrificing himself.
This twist didn’t have the exact effect that the filmmakers wanted – instead of sobbing into a pillow, I texted my friends that they needed to watch this movie right away so we could make fun of it together. Ultimately, I guess Paramount+ got the young audience they were looking for anyway. The In Between is not a good movie but rather an amalgamation of several okay-ish movies and TV shows, but there’s just something undeniably sweet about it.
Also, Joey King is in it, so I know all my fellow The Kissing Booth fans won’t be able to resist.
Thumbnail graphic by Bailey Richards.