Movie Review: “Together Together”

Ah, the miracle of life. Who hasn’t seen the movie where the couple gets pregnant and has to go through all the ups and downs that occur before the birth of their child(ren)? There are any number of spins that exist on the formula too, and because there are so many formulations of couples and so many stories and so many possibilities, all new additions could be welcome, provided that they’re done well. Written and directed by Nikole Beckwith, “Together Together” is just such a movie.

This take on the pregnancy story features a single man in his 40s, Matt (Ed Helms), hiring a woman in her 20s, Anna (Patti Harrison), to be the surrogate for his child. The two didn’t know each other before the event, have a substantial-sized contract about the surrogacy, and have to feel their way through the entire experience. The word “quirky” might be overused, but it is the perfect descriptor for this film and it’s look at the unique circumstances surrounding one pregnancy.

Beckwith’s movie is sweet and simple (a word which I do not use as a pejorative). Matt is this guy who desperately wants a kid and doesn’t have a partner with which to do it. Anna is someone who has undergone child birth before (the baby was adopted) and wants the money she earns for being the surrogate. It is a completely believable, totally understandable, beginning to a relationship and it works in large part because Beckwith, Helms, and Harrison keep it at that level. We understand the reasons for a contract with specific terms about what can and can’t be discussed. We understand how those lines can get fudged. We understand the awkwardness and newness and importance of it all.

The story very much stays with Matt and Anna even as we meet her coworker, Jules (Julio Torres), and his family, which includes his divorced parents (Nora Dunn and Fred Melamed). These other individuals, including the technician at the OBGYN’s office, Jean (Sufe Bradshaw) and their couple therapist, Madeline (Tig Notaro), all have their own two cents to offer Matt and Anna, and some of the advice and questions are good, but the important thing remains the non-couple and they are a fascinating pair. He’s an app developer and she works at a coffee shop, but simply by focusing on this different thing that each of them is doing, and offering up their interactions, we get to know them and care about them. We admire them and dislike some choices they make and want the best for them simply because we listen to them.

Helms brings usually sort of fussiness to Matt and it is a perfect fit for a character who has chosen to go this route. This is a man who desperately wants a child and is doing everything he can to make it happen, but who gets so bogged down in what colors mean and impart on a baby, that he can’t select what shade to paint the nursery.

Harrison’s Anna is far more sensible and has had some ups and downs in her past. Anna has a hard edge and Harrison is great at giving the audience peeks behind the façade before (and as) her defenses are lowered.

It is a sweet and small (a word I’m using, like simple, not as a pejorative) movie, and the music from composer Alex Somers works into it perfectly. It is just as touching and engrossing.

Having used the word “simple” twice, it deserves a clarification – there is, quite obviously, nothing simple about the story being told. It is emotionally complex for Matt and Anna and, one assumes, for a significant segment of the audience. Everything Beckwith and her team have created, the entire production, go to placing a primacy on these two characters. They are fully three dimensional human beings in a movie that could easily stereotype them. The supporting players are drawn less well–and often truly hysterical–but that only goes to continually recentering the story on Matt and Anna. These are two people who make themselves vulnerable to each other, and the world around them, through this act of pregnancy. It is not simple, not by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that it appears simple speaks to just how successful the movie is in its approach.

“Together Together” is funny and heartwarming and sad all at the same time. It is a movie which gives us the lives of two individuals during an emotionally fraught moment and makes us care for them. By keeping its scope small (even if the issues are deep), we become intwined in this relationship that neither of the people in it ever meant to be intwined in themselves. It is smart and enjoyable and definitely recommended.

photo credit: Bleecker Street

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