Together Together is a chemistry-rich, mature, and restrained effort of non-rom comedy.
It’s never a promising sign when a film’s opening credits mimic a certain Woody Allen style, white Windsor font on a black background, a half-familiar jazz tune opening things up. But writer/director Nikole Beckwith’s gentle new comedy Together Together excels in subverting expectations, a modern-day love story that celebrates platonic friendship above all else. There are myriad ways this material could have gone wrong, seemingly custom-built to be the most basic romantic comedy: Matt (Ed Helms), a single man in his mid-40s, forms a close bond with Anna (Patti Harrison), a 26-year-old woman hired to be the gestational surrogate for his baby. From its opening moments, the film makes clear that neither is on the lookout for a romantic relationship, and certainly not with each other. Indeed, the script is indeed so persistent in this regard, especially in the early going that, for a while, it feels like a lazy misdirect, with Matt’s well-meaning but controlling behavior toward Anna reaching sitcom levels of broadness.
It’s only later, once the film fully settles into its own pleasant, low-key groove, that it becomes clear that those early shenanigans actually serve a purpose: to establish and elucidate the particular human connection these two eventually find in one another. These are not tragic souls harboring dark secrets, and in one particularly strong scene that speaks to the kind of intimacy at play here, the two open up about their past struggles, spurred by the question, “Why are you alone?” The answers they provide are remarkable in their mundanity, but they also speak why they would be drawn to one another at this specific moment in their lives, a turning point for both. Beckwith even has a nice callback to those opening credits, detailing how Woody Allen is a disgusting letch who openly pursued women half his age, a bit of finality for any viewers still holding hope for any possible sexual or romantic attraction between Matt and Anna. Moments like this reveal a cleverness that does little to draw attention to itself, as welcome a development as it is rare. All of this restraint is helped immensely by two leads whose acting styles so effortlessly complement one another and the material: Helms plays into the sweet-but-slightly-obnoxious persona he cultivated as Andy on The Office, and comedienne Harrison, in her first starring role, brings a much-needed tartness to the potentially saccharine proceedings. Their chemistry is so strong that even the film’s pitch-perfect ending can’t help but feel like a letdown, as these are two characters so worth spending time with. If Beckwith wants to pull a Before Sunset and catch up with these characters in nine years, it’s fair to say that I’d be at the front of the line for Apart Apart.
Originally published as part of Sundance Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 7.