Together Together (United States, 2021)

April 21, 2021
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Together Together Poster

I’m tempted to call Together Together a romantic comedy because it has some of the rhythms one commonly associates with the genre. However, that would be mislabeling Nikole Beckwith’s sophomore film. Although there is love and affection in the relationship between the two main characters, there is neither romance nor sexual attraction. Indeed, one of the points made in the script is that it’s possible for two people to connect on an intimate level without wanting to sleep with one another. We see this often with male-male and female-female bonding movies but we rarely see it where one of the principles is a man and the other is a woman.

Matt (Ed Helms) is a lonely fortysomething guy who longs to be a father. His job as a successful app developer has given him enough time and money to work with a fertility clinic and engage a surrogate. She is Anna (Patti Harrison), a twentysomething who needs the money to put her life back on track. What starts as a business arrangement quickly becomes “messy.” Although Matt and Anna understand the importance of establishing barriers, neither is good at doing so and, along the road to his parenthood, they grow closer. The baby, whom they codename “Lamp,” represents something vastly different to each of them. For Matt, it’s his future. For Anna, it represents a pause in her life that will allow her to change its dead-end trajectory.

Together Together could have traversed a number of obvious and unappealing melodramatic routes, but this isn’t that kind of movie. Beckwith’s screenplay is too smart for such a ham-fisted approach, although she fumbles the ending. Often I complain that a movie runs too long. This is a rare instance when a production could have benefitted from an additional 15-to-20 minutes. It almost seems as if a last act (or epilogue) is missing. Although I understand the point Beckwith is making by ending the movie where she does, it leaves an incomplete feeling. Some backend connective tissue would have presented a better sense of closure.

In a bit of offbeat – and effective – casting, Patti Harrison, a trans woman, plays a heterosexual cis character. Most of the time when a trans actor is hired to play a part, the movie has something to do with gender identity. That’s not the case here. Harrison’s interpretation of Anna is spot-on: a guarded loner searching for a connection (not necessarily a romantic one) and her chemistry with co-star Ed Helms is perfect for this platonic relationship.

Together Together’s central issue is surrogacy. Although the film’s overall tone is light, with numerous openly comedic sequences interspersed, Beckwith’s writing offers intelligence and insight. The characters are well-drawn and the nuanced aspects of their relationship are developed without feeling the need to resort to Hollywood tropes. Together Together has its share of missteps, most of which occur when Beckwith tries too hard to generate humor through the quirks of secondary characters. (Nora Dunn as Matt’s unsmiling, overly critical mother; Julio Torres as Anna’s spacey coffee shop co-worker.) When the movie keeps its focus on Matt and Anna, however, it remains on solid ground and, fortunately, that’s for a majority of the running time. Recognizing that interpersonal interaction is the most important element of relationship-building (regardless of the nature of the relationship), the movie never pursues tangents that create narrative cul-de-sacs.

The lack of mainstream competition at the time of Together Together’s theatrical release affords it an opportunity to capture more attention than it would have gotten in a traditional release pattern. While the movie will play as well at home as in a theater, it offers the kind of heart-warming, thoughtful, and occasionally amusing story that’s badly needed in troubled times.

Together Together (United States, 2021)

Director: Nikole Beckwith
Cast: Ed Helms, Patti Harrison
Home Release Date: 2021-09-07
Screenplay: Nikole Beckwith
Cinematography: Frank Barrera
Music: Alex Somers
U.S. Distributor: Bleecker Street
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2021-04-23
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content)
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1