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Sundance 2021 Review: Together Together – “An unexpected and welcome discovery”

Ed Helms and Patti Harrison appear in Together Together by Nikole Beckwith, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tiffany Roohani.

“Have you ever stolen anything?”  An odd opening question to be sure, but it’s the one that Matt (Ed Helms) leads with upon interviewing the potential surrogate of his child, Anna (Patti Harrison).  Matt is a single, forty-something man whose biological clock is ticking.  He’s an app developer, best known for creating a popular app called ‘Loner’, where people just look at other people with no commitment of even speaking to them.  But you create mostly what you know, and besides from a relationship with his brother’s family, Matt is pretty much on his own.  With Anna’s help, he looks to obtain his dream of having a family.

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As Matt and Anna journey through the different stages of pregnancy together, so does their relationship grow.  They attend ultrasound appointments, bond over meals and he attempts to teach her about Friends, just one example of their age gap.  Matt’s a sweet guy, a perpetual over-thinker that tries to tend to Anna’s every need, but with Anna needing to create boundaries between herself and the baby she starts to question their friendship.  And what does this intimate relationship they’ve forged come to with such a finite end in sight?

Together Together is writer-director Nikole Beckwith‘s second feature (she was at Sundance in 2015 with Stockholm, Pennsylvania).  Her sophomore effort has the set up of a romantic comedy, but that’s where the similarities generally stop.  Together Together is a celebration of a different type of love story, a platonic one that is no less profound or formative, and yet it’s one we so very rarely see depicted on screen between a man and a woman.  She creates a smart, funny film that resists the inclination to create romantic love and the story is all the richer for it.  Beckwith also works against stereotypes here, making it the straight 40 something male that is yearning for a child (yes! it’s not just women who want children!). It’s a refreshing and modern perspective on family and all the different and beautiful ways they are created.

Beckwith also plays against type casting Ed Helms in a role that is a departure from his typical comedy in films like Tag or The Hangover.  That’s not to suggest he’s not still funny here, he is, it’s just softer and more grounded than we are used to seeing him.  The chemistry between him and Patti Harrison is sincere and feels completely organic.  Harrison herself is instantly charismatic, she’s a perfect fit for this film and an ample scene partner for Helms during their many amusing exchanges, some of which occur when in the presence of their surrogacy therapist, played by Tig Notaro.

Anna and Matt are as close as two people can be without having a physical relationship, and indeed probably even closer than many who do.  This portrait of opposite-sex friendship is a rare and heartfelt find, a film that celebrates an intensely intimate connection without ever becoming overly sentimental.  Beckwith creates an endearing and charming film that masterfully earns its beautifully shot and poignant final frame.  Together Together was an unexpected and welcome discovery and a film that quickly became one of my favourite at Sundance.

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