Review by Camden Ferrell
As the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and most productions came to a stand still, many celebrities found themselves at home with time on their hands. Many of these actors channeled their free time into creative projects like the anthology film With/In. While the people involved probably didn’t have bad intentions, most of the vignettes come off as tone deaf and incredibly bland given the context under which it was made.
The movie consists of thirteen vignettes, all made with different directors and actors. These vignettes all deal with the pandemic in some way, and they explore this global event through different lenses. In theory, this could be an enlightening experience to give us a better look into the psyche of a diverse group of individuals during this historical time. The anthological structure of this movie could be used to establish parallels and common themes, and it also allows certain vignettes to be duds without tainting the overall movie. However, these two advantages aren’t enough to save this movie.
From the start, it’s clear that these stories aren’t particularly compelling. It uses the pandemic as a narrative crutch rather than a backdrop, and this limitation means the stories feel monotonous in tone. None of the individual stories are written particularly well, and it seems like an attempt to mindlessly wax poetic about the pandemic or to shamelessly virtue signal.
As a whole, almost every vignette feels lazily made. The low budget equipment is not the problem with these films, it’s the complete lack of passion and entertainment that ultimately bog the entire experience down. The only section that I’d argue feels like an actual movie with effort is Twenty Questions which was written and directed by Arliss Howard and features a great performance from Carla Gugino.
Despite being full of great actors, the whole film equates to people having fun filming a short film with their family without any real substance or artistry. In addition to being bland, these films, coming primarily from privileged individuals feel tone deaf in how they tell stories about how they “coped” during the pandemic. COVID movies aren’t inherently a problem, but when it is a shallow attempt to virtue signal from well-off celebrities, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Being over three hours, With/In is not an experience worth checking out. It’s far from terrible, but it’s soulless and doesn’t have nearly enough commendable aspects to recommend viewing. There are a handful of enjoyable moments and only one great vignette, but everything else is painfully forgettable. The movie also feels incredibly dated already, and this doesn’t bode well for its longevity.
With/In is available on VOD March 15.