Caroline Libresco, a programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, writes in her synopsis of “Between” that it is a “smart, stylish and utterly original metaphysical thriller.” Smart and stylish are in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but “utterly original”? Has Ms. Libresco never actually seen a film at her festival? Because I can name three off the top of my head JUST FROM LAST YEAR that have almost the exact same plots and twists as “Between.” This movie is a lot of things — dull, amateurish, preposterous, for example — but “utterly original” it most certainly is not.
It is about a bland, husky-voiced gal named Nadine (Poppy Montgomery) whose sister Dianne has gone missing in Tijuana. Where you or I would give her up for lost rather than go to Tijuana and look for her, Nadine heads south immediately, against the advice of her loving but unsupportive husband James (Adam Kaufman).
The cops in Mexico are no help. In fact, they seem to be hiding something. Eventually Nadine gets a detective named Campos (Jose Yenque) to help her, and he surmises almost instantly that she Nadine and Dianne aren’t very close. This is not because Nadine has said something to hint at it, but because the movie wants us to know it and couldn’t think of a better way to tell us.
The movie does that a lot, actually, blurting out facts randomly as opposed to establishing them in a more natural fashion. The screenplay, by Robert Nelms, is hopelessly dim-witted and laughably over-complicated; the direction, by first-time David OcaÃ±as, does nothing to hide the transparent “surprises” and twists that await us, obvious within the first 30 minutes to even half-awake viewers (which will be most viewers).
Anyway, back to Nadine. A hotel desk clerk (Danny Pino) calls her Dianne, which is her missing sister’s name. What’s up with THAT?! And the detective leads her to an old decommissioned city bus, where she finds a lot of clocks, all stopped at 5:32. DOUBLE what’s up with that?! And some events begin to repeat themselves, such as when a grim-faced Mexican woman whom Nadine has approached for clues drops a vase and says, “Lou wha jew MADE me do!” The fact that she makes this exclamation twice, in exactly the same way, is extremely amusing if you happen to be me. (“Lou wha jew MADE me do!” Tee hee!)
Finally her husband James comes to Tijuana “on business,” which makes me skeptical, because what possible business would you have in Tijuana? Is he a cockfighter? Does he sell those little packs of gum at the border?
But back to my point. “Between” is like a made-for-TV movie that you’d find on the USA Network, or perhaps an especially boring episode of a Lifetime detective series. It eventually examines questions of what is real and what is fantasy, just like last year’s Sundance entries “The Machinist,” “November” and “Trauma” did (in case you were wondering which three I was referring to). “Between” is not only unoriginal, but it’s a ham-fisted attempt to re-use unoriginal materials, like a guy who steals lumber from a construction site to build a doghouse, then accidentally sets the wood on fire while he’s building it.
D (1 hr., 31 min.; )