Untogether, Emma Forrest’s directorial and writing debut, aims to tell a unified story of people and the relationships they have with each other, but the result is a fragmented plot held together by messy, but well-meaning characters.
Andrea (Jemima Kirke) is a published author struggling with writer’s block. A former addict, she hasn’t written in a long time and seems like she’s going through the motions. She finds some semblance of inspiration when she meets Nick (Jamie Dornan), a doctor-turned-author whose memoir about his time working in Gaza has made him the next big deal in the book world. Andrea is taken with him, but unwilling to open up too much. Their relationship is a mixture of lust and admiration that is slightly tinged with resentfulness on Andrea’s part. After all, Nick is exactly in the place she used to be, only she can’t even string together a paragraph, much less another book (to be fair, writing is hard and the struggle is real).
Meanwhile, Andrea’s sister, Tara (played by Jemima’s real-life sister, Lola Kirke), is in a relationship with the much older Martin, (Ben Mendelsohn), a former musician who’s getting his band back together. Tara is a massage therapist who’s been struggling with the loss of her father the year before. After she meets David (Billy Crystal), a local Rabbi, she finds solace by visiting his synagogue. At first, it’s to feel closer to her dad, but it isn’t long before Tara is smitten with him. She’s just as lost as her sister, but in different ways and they both end up caught between a rock and a hard place as they navigate through their relationships.
There’s a lot of potential in the story. It reaches toward something, though, and never quite gets there. There are genuine moments, unfiltered and authentic emotions that bubble to the surface, but they’re very much scattered. All of the good present in Untogether is overshadowed by the mishandling of its plot and characters. Instead of coming together in the end, the film is made up of strewn puzzle pieces that never work to become a fully realized story.
And it’s not that Untogether is boring or the characters uninteresting, but it never actually goes anywhere. There is so much going on in terms of character development, but the film is full of revolving plots that simply hang there refusing to connect or even evolve. The film is stifled by its refusal to be itself. It’s too scared to venture out and come to any definitive conclusions, preferring to remain in its bubble of safety. By the end, none of the characters seem to have developed much from when we first met them, all because the story goes about in circles.
Untogether also demonstrates how a talented cast and inspired performances cannot save it from floundering in its execution. Jemima Kirke is excellent as Andrea and gives a layered and nuanced performance. Andrea’s running on empty and frustrated and Kirke makes sure to allow the audience to grasp this in the subtle depth of her portrayal. Lola Kirke’s Tara is confused, but forthright, trying to find something solid to hold onto even though she’s often left feeling smaller than she actually is. Jamie Dornan is great in roles such as the one he has here and he does the best he can with his material even when it his story turns out to be the most underdeveloped. Billy Crystal and Ben Mendelsohn round out the supporting cast, attempting to provide some sense of balance in the midst of an unfocused plot.
Untogether makes a valiant attempt, but it’s ultimately a movie made of half-formed ideas that struggles in figuring itself out. The cast is fantastic, but their talents are wasted on underdeveloped characters and a marginally thin and all over the place story. Forrest has a lot of good ideas rolling around in the film, but never finds a way to bring them all together cohesively.
Untogether is now playing in limited theaters across the U.S. It’s also available to stream on Amazon Prime.