Following our part one and part 2 of recaps of films that we caught virtually during the online edition of SXSW Film Festival 2021, here is the third, and final, recap of all the selections that we were able to see.
Find our capsule reviews posted below.
See You Then (directed by Mari Walker)
Some things are better left in the past. When it comes to friendships, sometimes it’s nice to dig up an old connection and see if that spark still remains. But when it comes to old relationships, the idea and the concept of meeting up and picking up where you left off is probably better than the reality.
This is true when it comes with Kris (Pooya Mohseni) and Naomi (Lynn Chen). About a decade after Kris abruptly disappeared from Naomi’s life, Kris invites her to dinner with plenty of changes. Kris has transitioned and is looking at life through a new lens. Nomi is hesitant but accepting of this invite and at first, they enjoy their time catching up and sharing some good food, drinks, and reminiscing at their old college campus.
But after a few rounds of drinks and old demons resurfacing, the friendly jovial nature of it all is pushed aside and the truth of their true feelings reveals itself. There is a simplicity and rawness to the style of director Mari Walker, who transitioned herself, whose screenplay (co-written with Kristen Uno) feels very Linklater-esque in its one-night conversational approach, but also the indie nature of the production. What is lacks in budget it makes up with two powerful performances from Mohseni and Chen, both of which carry the film firmly on their backs.
While it doesn’t always maintain its presence and talkative nature, there is enough power from the script and performances to make this an engaging film that finds ways to carry itself with emotional heft. It shows that no matter how much we change about ourselves, sometimes deep down we stay the same.
Inbetween Girl (directed by Mei Makino)
While Inbetween Girl initially seems like the sort of coming of age/romantic comedy that we’ve seen tirelessly depicted on Netflix over the past couple of years, it still manages to prove itself to be a smart and plenty worthy entry into the genre.
It’s the feature film debut of director Mei Makino who frames it all in a personal and unflinching manner that is charming, raw, funny, and surprisingly tackles sexuality pretty head-on, in a way that is realistic and mature. Angie Chen (Emma Galbraith) has a good friendship with Liam (William Magnuson), the stereotypical jock who all the girls want, yet it seems that their friendship is bordering on something more. She’d easily jump his bones if not for his girlfriend, Sheryl (Emily Garrett), who is a famous social media influencer. You get a sense of where it’s headed but even still, Makino somehow makes it all feel fresh and full of vibrant energy and heart.
The dramatic heart and center also come from her troubles at home as her parents just got divorced and she is living with her always working lawyer mother Veronica (Liz Waters), and feeling distant from her beloved father Fai (KaiChow Lau) who has a new family already and a stepdaughter who she feels has replaced her. Between the difficulties with her love life and her life at home, Angie struggles to come of age as simply as one would expect. While there is a good deal of levity to break up the dramatic plots, there is a natural charm and heartfelt goodnature about the screenplay that overcomes any minor shortcomings that may occur.
It’s a winning little film that deserves to find an audience that will lift it up into a beloved edition of the genre.
Clerk (directed by Malcolm Ingram)
Clerk, the documentary by Malcolm Ingram, takes a look at the rise of Kevin Smith after the surprising success of the titular movie, Clerks. More interesting than a doc that just looks at what led to the little indies’ success was that the film more so analyzed at his post-career, which was mainly filled with films that seemed to never quite live up to that initial batch of success.
While disappointment was no doubt a part of it as the same critics who raised him up with glowing reviews of Clerks at Sundance were inevitably the ones who tore his later films to shreds. But along the way Smith evolved into something of a brand or entity of himself, embracing the world of comic books, podcasting, and just connecting with his fans in a way that has made him much more than just a filmmaker.
Ingram gives in an honest look at his life with interviews with Smith himself and his closest confidants, with a sobering look at his close brush with death with a heart attack that forced him to turn his health and life around. There is a very friendly and light tone to the film as a whole but considering that represents a lot of who Smith is as a person, it feels appropriate and welcome.