Being confined indoors during a pandemic leads to a lot of soul-searching. Or it could. There is the chance to spend those little moments of our lives — the ones that add up to a bigger chunk of time when collected together — investigating the ways we have done things in the days, weeks, months, years of our lives.
It’s almost as if writer/director Miriam Agwai was preparing for a time when people would need to have those conversations — with themselves, with their loved ones, with their partners — when she made the short film The Things in Between. The scenario at the center of the film plays out between a couple and their coming together for what is essentially a post-mortem of their relationship. An investigation into What Went Wrong. A kind of exit-interview for a defunct relationship, a year on. It’s a scenario that plays out an opportunity not many people have, or at least, they don’t take when something in their personal lives has ended.
The set-up hooks you in from the start. A man and a woman take their seats across from each other, and are asked by a voice off-camera: “how long were you together?” They talk over each other, each with their own reply to a seemingly simple question. Already we know there is something amiss with how they have seen their relationship. What the film seeks to show is how this gap between each person’s view of the relationship came to be.
With flashbacks to key moments in their time together, Michael and Grace begin to close in on that gap — each taking turns to ask questions of each other, questions they themselves were unable to ask during the relationship, but now in this set-up, are being prompted to ask, and in turn, answer. (As an aside, their meet-cute on the subway in New York City makes my heart ache for the days of missed connections on our beloved train!)
What I like about the film is how it focusses on the faces of the characters, giving us close-ups and POV shots with expressions that show so much and yet also, hide a lot too. It’s that aperture that Agwai, as director, opens up and explores with each new question. She doesn’t shy away from the discomfort that arises from sitting in the space of anger, disappointment, betrayal. She wants to know what kind of impact outside forces like immigration and work status have on a person, and then, what that does to the inside of a relationship.
Agwai, who plays “Grace” in this film also wrote, directed and produced it. On the website accompanying the film, Agwai has collected a list of resources and created a list of questions to help conversations, like the one at the center of The Things in Between take place more often. The short film may be Agwai’s calling card for future opportunities as a director and writer but it also cements her purpose in making unspoken conversations a much more common feature of our lives. Indoors and out.