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- Together Together
- Written and directed by Nikole Beckwith
- Starring Patti Harrison, Ed Helms and Tig Notaro
- Classification R; 90 minutes
The majority of Hollywood films are about romantic love, and Nikole Beckwith thinks there should be more films about other kinds of love – platonic love, filial love, even office love. The underlying theme of such love is often friendship. In her latest work, Beckwith explores the intimate bond that forms between two strangers through a surrogate relationship.
Aptly titled, Together Together is a film about two people whose paths might never have crossed otherwise. However, Matt (Ed Helms) is a single, 45-year-old app developer who wants to become a father. Anna (Patti Harrison) is a 26-year-old barista who applies to become his surrogate. A loner, she wants to use the money from the surrogacy process to reclaim her life, and is not looking for friendship. She knows from personal experience and reading the literature provided to her that it’s best to maintain a distance between surrogates, parents and the baby she has to eventually deliver and hand over. She wants to set some boundaries.
However, Matt, who ironically developed an app called Loner, doesn’t do boundaries very well. He’s that well-meaning guy in your life. You know the type. He doesn’t really want to judge you, but then sorta-kinda-does, even as he furrows his brow in confusion. The guy who’s hip to all the woke words but then fumbles as he tries to put them in practice. Yeah, that guy.
Matt reads parenting books. He shows up at Anna’s work one day with a thermos of pregnancy tea and arch-supporting clogs, even though she didn’t ask for them. He can’t decide on a colour for the nursery walls. Meanwhile, Anna wants to think of her pregnancy as just a means to her goal, and doesn’t want to share the news with her family or friends. In any case, the only friend she seems to have is her campy co-worker Jules (Julio Torres).
As the pregnancy progresses, Anna comes to understand Matt is well-meaning and endearing in his own over-the-top way. Just as Matt tries to make an effort to understand Anna’s acceptance of her loneliness, she comes to appreciate that even though his goofy antics can be somewhat annoying, Matt is in tune with her emotions. That despite the awkwardness between them, Matt has become a friend she can rely on.
There are some hilarious moments when Matt and Anna are in a couples therapy session with Madeline (Tig Notaro) or when Jules gloms onto the nature of Anna and Matt’s relationship. Without being snarky about it, the script pokes fun at the conventions of therapy sessions or the bizarre characters one can run into at a prenatal birthing class while practising breathing through labour techniques. Just Helms’s and Harrison’s expressions at these situations are enough to bring about chuckles.
But Sufe Bradshaw as the sardonic technician Jean is the true scene stealer. Her exasperated exchanges with Matt and Anna are priceless; you can feel her inwardly rolling her eyes at Matt and Anna’s continuous bickering as she’s trying to get the sonograms done.
As the central characters, Helms and Harrison play their parts with empathy. Even when he flounders, Matt isn’t a jerk. Meanwhile, Anna comes across as a complex young woman, trying to navigate the murky waters of surrogacy with as much calm as she can manage – especially when her growing belly becomes her identity versus her person.
Together Together, then, also flips the script on the usual depictions of surrogacy that either have to do with queer couples or infertile women wanting to have a child. You can’t help be taken by Matt’s enthusiasm for his unborn child, and the gusto with which he prepares to become a father. The movie ends with the birth of Matt’s child off camera. We don’t know what will happen next. But you get the sense that Matt and Anna will continue to share some sort of a bond, even after the umbilical cord is cut.
Together Together is available on-demand, including Apple TV/iTunes and Google Play, starting May 11
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.