Together Together is a romantic comedy that removes romance from the equation entirely. It follows a recognizable rom-com format (sometimes to its benefit, other times to its detriment) but eliminates any semblance of a “will they won’t they” dynamic in favor of something that’s woefully underrepresented in the entertainment landscape: An intimate but unambiguously platonic relationship between two straight adults of the opposite sex.
Matt (Ed Helms) is a middle-aged single man who’s looking for more out of life. He desperately wants to be a father but the right person has just never come into his life, so he decides to go ahead and hire a surrogate.
This ends up being a young woman named Anna (Patti Harrison), who’s happy to take the job on her own terms. Writer and director Nikole Beckwith (Stockholm, Pennsylvania) immediately establishes a unique relationship between the two that’s tough to define; is this merely a business transaction, or can it become a strange but tight friendship?
Matt is a refreshing portrayal of a male character, someone who is defined more by their softness than their brazenness. While most comedies would likely offer up a tired stereotype of a man who has no want for a child and who’s clueless when it comes to taking care of them, Matt is a genuinely enthusiastic father-to-be.
He’s the typical overpreparing and overly concerned parent, and some of the film’s funniest bits come from the way it pokes fun at some of the absurd bits of parenting books and literally someone like Matt would follow them quite literally.
Helms plays Matt with his usual purposefully offbeat comedic timing and a sense of warm sincerity, allowing him to easily navigate the jokes and pack an emotional punch when needed. Matt is extremely eager to be a dad, but still feels embarrassed about his situation. He has yet to tell his parents about his plans, and when he attends a seminar for new fathers, he finds that he’s the only one there as a single person.
But the most bittersweet aspect of Matt’s side of things is the fact that he’s alone in his joy and enthusiasm – when he and Anna hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, he’s overcome with delight, but she struggles to share that same level of happiness.
As she gets further along in her pregnancy, Anna begins to feel like she’s lost her sense of agency. When she attends the baby shower – which is made up of only Matt’s friends and family – she’s barely viewed as her own person. She’s just referred to as “the surrogate”. As the film plays with gender roles and shifting dynamics in the pair’s relationship, Matt’s overbearing nature often becomes too much for Anna, and their need to define boundaries becomes complicated.
His desire to be involved in the pregnancy as much as possible gets in the way of Anna’s wish to go about her life as normally as possible, and it creates a rift in their relationship as they try to figure out how to make it work.
Together Together’s greatest strength is its premise and the way it explores the aspects of that premise. While it’s certain to elicit some good chuckles, it’s rarely laugh out loud funny, and its drama is interesting but just not dramatic enough. It feels like the script doesn’t go quite far enough in either direction, instead opting for a more mellow vibe.
The cast is certainly capable of going bigger – Helms has proven to be consistently great in the years since he broke out with The Office and The Hangover series, and Harrison is one of the most exciting and hilarious newcomers right now. Check her out on Hulu’s Shrill and please (PLEASE) watch Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave.
Despite its more conventional beats – such as the inevitable 2nd act “break up” quickly followed by reconciliation – there’s something very sweet about the film’s overall tone and message. It’s a nice treat, one with both wit and heart.
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Together Together is a smart and sweet take on an unconventional relationship.
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