Writer-director Nikole Beckwith’s Together Together, which world premiered at Sundance where it was in the running for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize, refreshes the rom-com genre by placing a mellow and touching odd couple platonic friendship at its centre (a plat-com). As the film opens we meet twenty-something Anna (Patti Harrison), a coffee shop barista with ambitions of going to college, as she’s being interviewed by a straight single single forty-something app developer, Matt (Ed Helms). From his personal, rather invasive questioning it soon becomes clear that Anna is being screened by Matt as a potential gestational surrogate for his child.
Deciding to go with Anna, once she becomes pregnant Matt meets with his father (Fred Melamed) and his underwhelmed stepmother to break the news, announcing “I’m pregnant”. As Matt faces becoming a solo parent, the pair struggle to establish boundaries between their set surrogacy roles and a burgeoning close friendship. They spend increasingly more intimate time with one another, bingeing every episode of Friends—which Millennial Anna has never seen—and even picking out the paint colour for the nursery walls together. Wisely, Beckwith choses to keep the focus pretty squarely on Matt and Anna to the point that we feel like we’re on their pregnancy journey with them, with the film divided into chapters according to each trimester.
Along with the gentle, unforced comedy, there’s a sadness that doesn’t take anything away from the pleasure of the film, with Anna integral to a process that she also feels excluded from because she’s not ‘together together’ with Matt and won’t be part of the baby’s life. Being pregnant again also makes Anna reflect upon her past, having given up a baby for adoption while she was still in high school, which led to an ongoing rift between her and her family.
One of the most popular apps created by Matt, called Loner, has the usual kind of dating/hookup interface but without any interaction, where users swipe through photos of other people they’ll never meet. It reflects the fact that Anna and Matt are loners in their own lives to some degree, and along with the funny, the film is also a meditation on both choosing to be alone and dealing with loneliness in the contemporary world.
Beckwith establishes a distinctive offbeat tone, giving breathing space to the initial awkwardness between Anna and Matt, which never feels contrived. Warmly amusing rather than out-and-out hilarious, there’s a low-key, rather understated delivery of the comedy by Patti Harrison and Ed Helms who are a delight throughout, with natural, effortless performances and an engaging dynamic between them. Together Together achieves that rare thing in a comedy movie, where it never feels like anyone is trying too hard.
Very much a two-hander, there’s nevertheless a great supporting cast who make an impact with just a few brief scenes, such as Anna’s eye-rolling queer co-worker Jules (Julio Torres) who is just one of the LGBTQ+ folks who casually populate the world of the film, like the lesbian couple at an antenatal class that Matt and Anna attend; while lesbian comedian Tig Notaro brings her dry delivery to the pair’s surrogacy counselor Madeline.
Casting directors Richard Hicks and Leslie Wasserman have assembled the kind of diverse cast that we’re now used to seeing fairly regularly on television, but that film has been slower to adopt. It’s also particularly exciting that trans actress Patti Harrison is playing a cisgender lead role, something that’s both remarkable and unremarkable at the same time (she’s simply been cast because she’s a brilliant actress and right for the role), and hopefully a sign of where casting is heading.
By James Kleinmann
Together Together is in theaters Friday April 23rd 2021 and released on Digital May 11th 2021.