THE STORY – When 26-year-old Anna becomes a gestational surrogate to a single, middle-aged app designer named Matt, she expects only a transactional bit of good karma and the payday that will allow her to finish her college degree. But as Matt’s unbridled enthusiasm for impending parenthood leads him to persistently insert himself into her life and invite her into his, the initially annoyed Anna finds herself reluctantly charmed. The pair of self-described loners gradually open up to each other, give in to the intimacy of their admittedly finite shared experience, and forge an unlikely friendship.
THE CAST – Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, Tig Notaro, Julio Torres & Anna Konkle
THE TEAM – Nikole Beckwith (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 90 Minutes
By Cody Dericks
This is my very first Sundance, and before I ever attended it, “Together Together” is precisely what I would imagine when someone would say something was a “Sundance movie.” It’s a uniquely-voiced, progressive-minded comedy about a real-life subject starring noted comedians that isn’t afraid to shy away from moments of genuine feeling. And while it doesn’t surprise in that sense, it still brings something new and refreshing to the pregnancy subgenre of movies. It features a clever screenplay, wisely-tuned direction, and a pair of grounded yet funny performances.
The duo in question is Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison). Matt is in his mid-40s and is restless to start a family. He decides to hire Anna as a surrogate with plans to raise the child as a single father. Anna is 20 years younger than him and after giving up a baby for adoption in high school, she’s sure that she’ll be able to successfully distance herself from Matt and his child after the birth. However, the two quickly find themselves bonding and sharing many pregnancy milestones together, all while keeping a watchful eye on the boundaries they’ve established from the beginning.
Harrison and Helms have fantastic chemistry together, which proves to be the key to the movie’s success. Helms is endearing in his genuine excitement about his impending fatherhood, and it’s nice to see a film allow a man to be unabashedly thrilled at the thought of being a dad. And Harrison is just spectacular. She brings many seemingly-contradictory qualities to Anna’s characterization; she’s aloof but to-the-point and assured but occasionally fragile. I’ve been a fan of her comedy for quite some time, so I went into this excited to see her conquer a funny feature role, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her turn in a performance that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking in its realism. We’ve all met someone like Anna, and this movie is lucky that it got Harrison to bring her to life.
What makes this movie feel so new and exciting is the way it handles pregnancy. There are plenty of good films revolving around the creation of a new life, but far too often, pregnancy is treated as a fairly cheap way to suddenly give a movie stakes where it previously had none. “Together Together” is matter-of-fact in its depiction of this process. The two characters form rules and boundaries in order to keep their relationship clearly defined. Of course, these edicts prove to have some wiggle-room, but what remains steadfast is the nature of their interactions. They are strictly a platonic couple, and the movie does an excellent job of showing that there’s no possibility of this changing. It’s so successful in its mission that even when the characters express evident affection for each other, it’s still abundantly clear that this merely proves the strength of their bond. A lesser movie most likely wouldn’t be able to help itself and would instead have their friendship teeter over into an unlikely romance.
Writer-director Nikole Beckwith’s script is perceptive and specific in its characters’ voices. It’s full of engaging character-based scenarios, like a hilarious segment where Anna makes Matt show her how he will teach his child about periods. Beckwith makes a deliberate choice to avoid the typical little moments of drama that accompany stories of this type. Unfortunately, this makes the sections of the movie that tiptoe into well-worn comedy-drama story beats a bit more glaring in their inclusion. But it doesn’t entirely distract, and Beckwith’s light and engaging direction keeps the film zipping along. Her work with her two lead actors is apparent, as their characters are well-established and bounce off of each other in unendingly charming ways. The film is also populated with hilarious supporting turns from the likes of Tig Notaro, Sufe Bradshaw, and Julio Torres, among others.
“Together Together” is exactly the kind of refreshing and satisfying feat of storytelling that the comedy landscape needs to grow continuously. It’s funny and charming with a pair of performances that sell every moment of its well-constructed screenplay.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Endearing in its honesty, “Together Together” is led by two fabulous and funny performances that help bring the well-constructed screenplay to life.
THE BAD – It takes such a refreshing look at a pregnancy story that the very few moments where the script delves into typical comedic story beats stand out.
THE FINAL SCORE – 7/10