Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | April 23rd, 2021
Together Together (Nikole Beckwith, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
In the gentle, sweet Together Together, Ed Helms (Tag) plays Matt, a single fortysomething man who hires a woman to be a surrogate mother for the child he wishes to have. She is Anna (Patti Harrison), a 26-year-old working in a coffee shop who harbors once-and-future aspirations for education and beyond. As they each navigate the complexities of what they initially considered a purely transactional relationship, the narrative deepens in unexpected ways. The result is a mostly moving, if at times facile, study of loneliness and friendship.
Loosely divided into three sections (one for each trimester), Together Together follows the ups and downs of the process, starting with the job interview and going from there. Matt is a very needy, and therefore controlling, person, unable to stay away from Anna as his anxiety about her diet and dating habits gets the better of him. She rightfully pushes back, but since she stands to earn quite the payday, is perhaps more tolerant than Matt deserves. Still, underneath his mania is a future dad concerned about the well-being of his baby, and Anna’s sensitivity of spirit keeps her from cutting him off. Slowly, they become more than just client and provider.
Fortunately, and not only because of the age difference, director Nikole Beckwith (Stockholm, Pennsylvania) avoids any semblance of romance between her two protagonists. That’s not what the movie is about. Rather, we gradually learn more and more about both Matt and Anna and how they got to this place in their lives. There’s enough backstory to fill in some familial gaps, though not quite sufficient material to fully flesh out their entire pasts. That’s not a bad thing, however, for sometimes less is more, or at least adequate. The joys here are in the quiet interactions, emphasizing the simple, necessary pleasures of human connection.
Both Helms and Harrison do fine work, though in many ways the former can’t escape his comedic past. Every gesture and expression of his feels tinged with irony, as if he can’t quite help himself, lending an acerbic quality to even the saddest moments. I love my drama laced with humor, and vice versa, but when the sincere scenes are undercut by glib delivery, it’s tough to invest fully in the emotional stakes. A surprisingly abrupt conclusion at least delivers a bracing reality check on what the next steps may look like, but there’s a lightness to the entire affair that occasionally rings hollow.
That said, the overall impact of Together Together is otherwise strong. Beckwith has a fine way with composition and score, never allowing either to overwhelm her storytelling, creating a well-crafted, consistent aesthetic throughout. By the end, we have spent time in the company of two interesting souls, with a variety of quirky (sometimes too much so) supporting characters, and emerge pleasantly diverted. It could be more, but what it is is enough.