DISCLAIMER: Mild spoilers abound for Together Together. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own peril.
Ah, the relationship between a parent-to-be and their surrogate. It’s one that’s not often addressed in our media. Together Together, a Bleecker Street film that recently hit theaters, delves into this peculiar connection. Written and directed by Nikole Beckwith, the flick focuses on lonely 40-something Matt (Ed Helms) who seeks out an equally lonely 20-something surrogate, Anna (Patti Harrison), to carry his child. Matt and Anna’s relationship serves as the crux of Together Together.
Now, the film wastes no time regarding Anna’s surrogacy. We open with her interview and subsequent hire by Matt right off the bat. Together Together‘s uphill climb is a slow one, but we’re privy to many facets of Matt and Anna’s initially awkward connection along the way. Their shared loneliness is really what fuels their relationship.
Matt, having just ended an eight-year relationship, is tired of being alone. One pivotal scene wherein Anna asks Matt why he’s choosing to have a kid by himself is a crowning moment for Helms. We’re so used to seeing him in comedies, but he really shines here in a viscerally raw, achingly vulnerable scene.
Throughout the course of the movie, we see Matt and Anna embarking on this journey together. They attend couples counseling sessions with Madeline (Tig Notaro). In addition, they participate in a birthing class spearheaded by the overly enthusiastic Shayleen (Anna Konkle). Matt even goes with Anna to her various doctor’s appointments. Most people question why they aren’t together.
In fact, Matt himself brings this up: Why aren’t they a couple? Anna counters that their nearly two-decade age gap may have something to do with it. This is an aspect of Together Together that I truly appreciate. Beckwith didn’t see the need to shove her two leads together in a romantic way. It feels like a comment on Hollywood’s obsession with pairing older men with significantly younger women.
Thankfully, Beckwith decides to hone in on a seldom-explored relationship type: the platonic love between women and men. It’s akin to what When Harry Met Sally strove to achieve without the inevitable couple endgame.
As Matt and Anna continue to grow closer, the latter plays a vital role in everything from choosing baby room colors to teaching Matt crucial dad tips. She shows him how to insert a tampon (not on herself) and how to braid hair. How to transparently discuss menstrual cycles.
We never see a dad-to-be enthusiastically diving into the societally murky waters of “The Girl.” Of course, that’s due to the still pervasive stigma surrounding periods and “feminine stuff.” Together Together‘s approach to this is utterly refreshing.
This movie is not without conflict. Anna attends an awkward baby shower with Matt’s not-so-tactful family. They make Anna feel like an outsider. Thus, Anna withdraws from Matt, albeit temporarily. She even refuses to know the gender or Matt’s chosen names for the baby so as not to get attached. They decide to call the baby “Lamp” as a safe, gender-neutral term. Anna’s fear of attachment grows to a fever pitch.
Then, she’s pushed over the edge and instinctively calls Matt after she experiences pre-labor cramps. Matt takes her in and the duo braces themselves for the eventual birth day. Anna confesses that she loves Matt in a “not gross way.” Her feelings are reciprocated.
It’s a deeply touching moment that showcases Harrison’s versatility as an actress. She wholly embodies Anna in every sense. She’s a messy, insecure and vulnerable leading lady. Anna doesn’t shoulder the stereotypical “strong woman” mantle or what Hollywood perceives to be strong. Regardless, Anna is a character of immense strength. Together Together applauds the courageousness of women who become surrogates. The women who give birth to a child that’s ultimately not theirs. We see Anna grapple with her own relationship with the baby growing inside her.
Now, Together Together ends on an intriguing close-up. The film comes full circle by opening with a shot of Anna and ending with a shot of her. After giving birth, the camera pans on her face while we hear Matt cooing over his newborn. Matt reveals that the baby is a boy. It lands like an offhanded remark, but the expression on Anna’s face says it all. She’s overcome with exhaustion from popping out a human. Suffused with overwhelming emotions. Yes, she chose to be a surrogate. But, in that split second at the end, there’s a glint of … regret? Sorrow?
Together Together deftly explores the boundaries between parents-to-be and surrogates. Is there a reason why this relationship is usually more transactional than emotional? Beckwith asks the hard-hitting questions here.
This film is branded as a “rom-com,” but it’s not a romantic comedy in the traditional sense. It delves into platonic love and the bonds formed therein between two strangers. It takes the tired rom-com trope and turns it on its head. That being said, I would describe Together Together as more of a drama than a comedy.
Together Together is a quietly introspective tale about connection in the face of loneliness. Love doesn’t have to be stereotypically romantic for it to be love. Platonic relationships are just as impactful, if not more so. Single men can raise kids on their own. Both Helms and Harrison deliver beautifully resonant work here, perfectly hitting those vulnerable, truthful moments out of the park. If you want a rom-com with a different edge, this flick is the way to go.
Together Together is currently in theaters.