A love story that isn’t technically a love story, Nikole Beckwith’s Together Together is a special kind of movie. It tells the story of a rather unconventional relationship in a heartfelt way that manages to avoid slipping into oversentimentality, culminating in an ending that feels heartbreakingly fitting. Together Together premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and, for those looking for a poignant tale of friendship to welcome in the warmer weather, they couldn’t do much better than this slice-of-life tale. Anchored by excellent lead performances from Ed Helms and Patti Harrison, Together Together is a charming crowd-pleaser with a lot of heart.
App developer Matt (Helms) is perhaps not the first person many would expect to seek out a surrogate. A single man in his 40s, Matt desires some kind of connection in life, one he has yet to experience. Together Together begins with Matt interviewing a prospective surrogate named Anna (Harrison), a barista in her 20s with effectively no meaningful relationships. Despite her interview suffering from some extreme awkwardness, she passes with flying colors and is soon pregnant with Matt’s child. Over the course of Anna’s pregnancy, she and Matt navigate their strange new relationship, with Matt coming on as far more hands-on than Anna was expecting.
Based on that premise, it would be so easy for Together Together to spiral into a romance. It’s something Matt and Anna even remark on at various points throughout the film, not to mention the outsiders who often misunderstand their relationship when they venture out in public. Thankfully, Beckwith (who also penned the script) resists any urge to follow that path. Instead, Together Together lets Anna and Matt grow as friends. With a slim 90-minute runtime, there are moments when their relationship (and Anna’s pregnancy) progresses faster than expected. It can be a bit jarring at first, but Beckwith manages to ease Together Together into a nice slice-of-life narrative. The audience is along for the ride with the pregnancy, and each scene is meant to further either the leads’ characterizations or their relationship. There isn’t much filler to be found here. It also helps that the banter between Anna and Matt pulls laughs even as it establishes both characters effectively.
As the unlikely duo, Helms and Harrison have the exact kind of platonic chemistry needed to pull a story like this off. Helms is perhaps better known for his comedic work on The Office or in the Hangover films, but he brings a nice vulnerable touch to his character. Matt is fully aware of the strangeness of his position, being an unattached man who wants a child, and, again to Beckwith’s credit with the script, Together Together doesn’t turn that into a joke. As a result, Helms gets the chance to show a more sensitive side; his eagerness over preparing for his child is truly touching.
Harrison, meanwhile, is a wonderful partner for Helms. As the more closed-off and dry Anna, Harrison manages to straddle her own line of comedic moments and quieter character development with great success. Anna is perhaps the more compelling character in Together Together, what with her mentions of an estranged family and her self-inflicted isolation from the world. There are some aspects of Anna’s past that some might wish for deeper explanation, but Harrison manages to convey so much with her performance. The final scenes of Together Together leave an impact largely because of Harrison; though the movie concludes a tad abruptly, the ending plants the audience firmly in Anna’s shoes, and it makes for both a heartwarming and heart-wrenching finish.
Much of a viewer’s enjoyment of Together Together will lie in their investment in Matt and Anna (since the other characters don’t do much). Luckily, Beckwith has crafted a bond that feels earned, even as it grows in an unexpected direction. As the surrogate, Anna isn’t supposed to have much connection with either the child growing inside her or the parent. That’s where the conflict really lies, how close Anna is willing to get to Matt. Together Together makes a strong case for their friendship, and the film as a whole strikes the right balance between the lighthearted and the complicated. It’s hard not to get invested in Matt and Anna, so perhaps it’s better to just let them wiggle into one’s heart.
Together Together releases in theaters Friday, April 23. It is 90 minutes long and rated R for some sexual references and language.
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