It’s hard to balance warmth, humor, and a subject most wouldn’t even begin to know how to tackle, but writer-director Nikole Beckwith does so with ease, heart, and authenticity, all while subverting expectations of familiar tropes. Filled with meaningful exchanges and consisting of a solid friendship, a wonderful story, and well-timed comedy, Together Together is not a film to be missed.
Matt (Ed Helms), a middle-aged app designer, really wants to have a baby and—despite being a single man with no romantic prospects in sight, which is something several people comment on throughout the film because they’re judgy and can’t fathom something like this—feels he’s at the point in his life that he should go for it. He hires Anna (Patti Harrison), a 20-something barista, to be his surrogate, with her plan to use the money to finish her college degree. But, what starts off as an off-kilter relationship develops into a strong bond and platonic intimacy that is based on a shared experience.
With Together Together, Beckwith explores the male biological clock that is overlooked because of our society’s stringent patriarchal ideas. It’s so very rare that a film depicts a man who is overjoyed at the idea of being a father and who puts in the effort to actually be a good one. Even rarer is a film that handles surrogacy without the drama, dissolving the idea that women can’t separate themselves from the situation of giving birth to a child they agreed would not be theirs to keep. In the film, such ideas are handled with grace, thoughtfulness, and humor.
Matt and Anna are fully realized people who tackle the various obstacles and questions that surrogacy can bring up and the film does a tremendous job with regards to erasing stereotypical gender norms. Of course, the realness of their relationship is bolstered greatly by Helms and Harrison’s performances, with each actor bringing something exquisitely vulnerable and sensible to their roles. On paper, these two might not have worked, but their onscreen believability is rooted in Helms and Harrison’s easygoing, moving exchanges and openness.
Together Together is a heartwarming dramedy that perfectly explores the need for human connection in the wake of loneliness. Something as simple as friendship can go a long way to help and heal, making people feel seen and loved. Anna and Matt are that to each other, and their relationship helps them to prepare for the arrival of the baby and to grow as individuals. An idea that lingers in the film is that of temporary friendships, people you meet in life who are influential and with whom you form an emotional connection, but who don’t necessarily carry on in your life in the same relationship capacity as before. It’s quite poignant and lovely, with Beckwith building on the strength of the core relationship in ways that are natural and endearing.
Yet another wonderful aspect of Together Together is that it never crosses into romantic territory and actually gives several great reasons for the pair to avoid it altogether (and it’s a fantastically funny conversation that is spurred on by the assumption that Anna and Matt are together simply because of the baby). Beckwith, who provides levity to the situation, subverts our expectations of what her story would have been in the hands of another filmmaker, and the film is all the better for it. Similar to the idea that families can come in all forms, the film implies that platonic friendships can also form under different circumstances. The varying experiences are portrayed as valid and the writer-director leans heavily into the importance and value of these relationships. Well-paced with deep, thoughtful characters and subject matter, Together Together soars.
Together Together premiered Jan. 31, 2021 at the Sundance Film Festival. For more Sundance 2021 coverage, click here.