We live at a time when the meaning of ‘family’ continues to evolve withing our culture. But can you be together without really being together?
Together Together tells the story of Matt (Ed Helms), a single middle-aged man who decides that he wants to father a child and turns to a surrogate to make his dreams into a reality. In the process, he hires Anna (Patti Harrison), a young independent woman who is willing to take the job for the extra cash. As the months go by and the due date approaches, the two begin to experience a unique bond together which causes them to re-evaluate their perceptions of what it means to be connected, maintaining boundaries and the nature of love.
Written and directed by Nikole Beckwith, Together Together has charm and wit but never fully realizes its potential. To its credit, Helms and Harrison have a certain charming chemistry that keeps the film going. As Matt, the always affable Helms brings the sort of light-hearted humour that has made him a star. At the same time, Harrison does an excellent job as Anna, and serves as an interesting foil for Helms as his potential paramour. Together (together), they create an interesting dynamic with conflicting styles that allows the ‘will they/won’t they’ to work, even at times when the script lets them down.
With unique twists and characters, Together seems has grand ambitions to change stereotypes of the rom-com genre. By flipping the tropes of the ‘young woman looking to have a child’ and the ‘independent male loner’, Beckwith has the opportunity to explore changing gender roles and cultural stereotypes. In this way, the film really creates some fascinating and unexpected interactions. Matt attempts to navigate life as a single man in a world that seems foreign to him. At the same time, Anna’s emotional and sexual independence causes conflict within herself as she struggles to connect with both the baby and Matt.
Even so, while it’s refreshing to see a film that breaks with conventions in so many ways, the script doesn’t always come into focus as a result. At times, Together feels like it wants to break the rules but doesn’t always know where it wants to go when it does. Although there are some interesting conversations to be had featuring a single-father family, the idea of potentially linking the two leads romantically feels like it could be transgressive. (For instance, if Matt begins a relationship with Anna, does that defeat the intent of showing his courage?) While the script does manage to (sort of) answer these questions by the end, it still feels slightly unsatisfying.
At its core, Together wants to explore the nature of community and, more specifically, the meaning of family. Both Matt and Anna live lives with varying degrees of isolation and shame. While Matt fails to live up to his parents’ expectations for attempting to be a single father, so too does Anna feel the full weight of her own family’s shame for her own past pregnancy. Estranged from their loved ones, the two are both looking for a relationship in order to feel safe and secure. (It’s worth noting that neither is actively searching for a romantic relationship. Instead, both seem focused on their independence, at least initially.)
As their openness with one another begins to break down their barriers though, their professional relationship begins to melt into something that brings feelings of security and love. While romance is not off the table, neither is it the driving force here. (After all, they’re together… but not together together…) In this way, Beckwith’s story really challenges assumptions about what it means to be a family. In Together, Matt and Amy can become partners without having to fit into traditional family roles. Regardless of what takes place between them romantically, the two characters can still commit to caring for one another and creating a world where ‘Lamp’ is loved. This conversation seems to be the ultimate motivation behind Beckwith’s script and provides some interesting conversation points as the credits roll.
In the end, due to the strength of Helms and Harrison, Together Together makes for an evening of entertaining viewing. While the script does lose its way at times, the film creates some intriguing situations that makes it an enjoyable watch, whether alone or with your ‘together’.
Together Together is available on demand on Tuesday, May 11th, 2021.