There are no shortage of articles, posts, and Twitter threads about the importance of platonic love, the highs and lows, the breakups that can often feel more painful than the end of a romantic relationship. Nikole Beckwith’s new film Together Together captures the complicated relationship between two very different people, brought together through surrogacy.
When Matt (Ed Helms) meets Anna (Patti Harrison) in the office of a surrogacy agency, their lives couldn’t be more different. He is a successful app designer, looking to become a single parent through surrogacy, and she is a mid-twenties coffee shop employee who is estranged from her family. Their meet cute, as it were, takes place in this interview setting where Matt quickly finds out her most personal secrets – for the purpose of full disclosure – and while she answers the questions with no small amount of sarcasm, any power disparity is quickly evaporated when at the end she parries back exactly the same questions to him.
Beckwith divides the film into three acts, neatly mirroring the three trimesters of pregnancy, through plain black and white title cards that cut in during quiet moments, allowing the film to maintain a sense of momentum without ever requiring too much exposition to discuss the passage of time. Matt and Anna’s relationship is able to carefully tread along the expected trajectory of what Billy Mernitt describes as Meet, Lose, Get – this time with an added sense of urgency and an impending deadline: the birth.
Through choosing the narrative of surrogacy, Beckwith adds an extra dimension of complexity to this blossoming relationship: what happens when their contract comes to an end, the baby has arrived and Anna’s position as part of this duo is quickly evaporated? Throughout the film, Matt and Anna begin to rely on each other in ways neither expected – the careful boundaries between surrogate and parent-to-be are eroded when Matt introduces her to Friends, or Anna helps him decide on the colour to the nursery, and they quickly become integral parts of each others’ lives.
Helms and Harrison’s chemistry as this chalk-and-cheese couple is central to the premise, as their relationship moves from one of transaction and necessity, towards one of care and love. Harrison’s Anna, younger and more cynical clashes with Helms playing off his cheerfully optimistic, sweetly awkward persona that has been developed since the later seasons of The Office (US). They argue about boundaries, the buying of ugly yet practical clogs, the predatory nature of Woody Allen and his films, all while slowly growing closer in ways neither of them expected.
At the heart of Together Together is a film about two lonely people discovering a kindred spirit in a person who couldn’t be more different. By taking on the rom-com, it challenges the societal expectations of the nuclear family, the aspirational paths that are ‘meant’ to be trodden, the overwhelming importance of romantic relationships above all else.
Together Together is showing as part of Sundance London 2021 – tickets can be found here.