Between Us first found success as an off-Broadway play but it fails as a film. The story focuses on two key episodes in two pairs of couple’s lives and exposes the flawed relationships between themselves and with each other. It is supposed to be an arty, intense and cerebral drama but instead it feels like four people arguing. For 88 minutes.
The story begins with two friends, Carlo (Taye Diggs) and Joel (David Harbour) who had met and befriended each other while they were studying photography. The former has only recently married, Grace (Julia Stiles) and they appear to be a bright and blissful couple even though Carlo is a struggling artist living in New York. Joel on the other hand has become a commercial artist (read: sell-out) and he has a newborn with Sharyl (Melissa George). These two are more financially well-off and live in a mansion in the suburbs but this doesn’t stop them from fighting and bickering constantly.
It’s then a few years later and Sharyl and Joel decide to visit their former friends at the latter couple’s tiny, city apartment. It seems that the roles have been reversed as Joel has found religion, Sharyl seems happy and it is now Carlo and Grace that fight over money and their own newborn. This character study showing a happier period of a relationship juxtaposed with a more dysfunctional one hints at Blue Valentine, except with more characters.
Between Us does feature the odd flashback but for the most part this is a non-linear, dialogue-driven film that is predominantly set in one of the two main episodes. The characters fight constantly and often this is with a shrill pitch, meaning it is hard to warm and engage with the source material (or it could be that the scenes are a little too dark and real for the audience to truly enjoy).
The film also milks the levels of tension that transpire. This means that the audience are drip-feed what occurred on that previous, fateful evening- which lead to such caustic relationships. Unfortunately, this is then combined with disengaging characters, meaning it does little overall to hook the viewer in.
Director, Dan Mirvish’s adaptation of Between Us is ultimately 88 minutes of tedious verbal sparring. The couples argue over sex, children, careers, money and success but they are often too self-absorbed and hollow for us to really care. Between Us is therefore one difficult film to watch as its relentless acidity feels laboured and it fails to make a strong-enough impact, despite what seemed like promising features.
Originally published on 29 August 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/08/29/dvd-review-between-us-usa-2012/
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