Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee Together Together may appear to be a typical romantic comedy from the outside. But once the film starts unravelling it becomes clear that the film is a different animal altogether. Writer/Director Nikole Beckwith uses the familiar trappings of a traditional rom-com to explore a highly unconventional friendship that plays on a familiar premise, the use of a birth surrogate for families that can’t have children on their own.
Ed Helms plays Matt, a single would-be father that is looking to start his own family by himself through the use of a surrogate. The film opens with Matt interviewing Anna (Patti Harrison) and after the interview the film shifts into the “First Trimester”. Using the trimesters as chapter stops, the film quickly establishes this narrative framework as Matt starts telling his family, beleaguered brother Jacob (Timm Sharp) and his wife Liz (Bianca Lopez) who are already saddled with a few kids and know what lies ahead for him.
Matt’s divorced parents (Nora Dunn and Fred Melamed) seem happy for Matt but don’t seem the entirely grasp the situation. The pair grow closer through couples therapy with Madeline (Tig Notaro), even though they aren’t a couple. But Matt proves to be an all-encompassing factor in Anna’s life, Matt being a very nebbish and neurotic dad to be, which threatens to drive a wedge between the two that might be insurmountable.
Together Together is a different spin on a familiar tale, but does also feature many familiar tones and subject matter that holds its back from being entirely original. Beckwith’s script does manage to bring the audience along though, even if some will read differently into the situation or want more from the characters. A platonic friendship yet delicate friendship of this nature has rarely, if ever, been on screen before. But in this relationship, it’s the female in her mid 20’s that seems more mature and in control than the half man child in his late 40’s.
This both helps to center and focus the film while also provides its biggest core issue. Anna is clearly the more realized character of the 2 leads in the script. Harrison delivers a knockout performance in the role, which effectively buries Helms’ Matt at points of the film. And as much as Helms does a decent job, the way his character is written doesn’t give him nearly enough to keep pace with Harrison. Mostly everyone else, except for Notaro and a nurse played by Sufe Bradshaw, have very little screen time as the story focuses solely on its leads. But despite this, Nora Dunn and Fred Melamed manage to stick out based on charm and charisma alone.
Staging the film in trimesters establishes early on that this film only intends to follow this pair through the course of the pregnancy. Despite this, some audiences will despise the ending, feeling it too abrupt. In many ways that feeling exists simply because they have fallen for these characters along the way, willing them to have more to their story. But that’s not how life works. As much like Beckwith intends to highlight, all of our lives are filled with people who drastically important for short periods of time before moving out of our lives. And in a land of ‘Hollywood Endings’, the occasional real ending feels refreshing.
- Rated: R
- Genre: Comedy Drama
- Release Date: 5/12/2021
- Directed by: Nikole Beckwith
- Starring: Bianca Lopez, Ed Helms, Fred Melamed, Nora Dunn, Patti Harrison, Sufe Bradshaw, Tig Notaro, Timm Sharp
- Produced by: Anita Gou, Anthony Brandonisio, Bill Benenson, Chris Boyd, Daniel Crown, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Kevin Mann, Lia Burman, Nikole Beckwith, Rebecca Cammarata, Tim Headington, Toby Louie
- Written by: Nikole Beckwith
- Studio: Bleecker Street, Level Film