Together Together is seen through a lens of a blurred social construct and this platonic rom-com is even better for it.
Ed Helms has honestly started to form an eclectic independent film career. Sure, he has The Hangover trilogy and a handful of big-budget comedy flops since The Office. But for every Father Figures, Vacation, and Coffee & Kareem we are treated to films like Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Cedar Rapids, Chappaquiddick, and The Clapper (sue me, I liked it). His latest film is Together Together. It’s a film that’s a dual character study on the nature of gender roles and told in an honest way.
How does it feel not to have a family when you’ve reached your forties? For women, the stereotype is that it’s ingrained in their DNA. But what about a man? A woman wants to build a family and a man thinks about the legacy he will leave behind. Matt (Helms) wants to do both. He is a middle-aged man, divorced, and life has not turned out how he planned. He isn’t getting any younger and he wants a family. That’s where our young loner Anna (Raya and the Last Dragon’s Patti Harrison) comes in. She becomes a surrogate mother for Matt. She is single, has her own history, and Matt can’t understand why she isn’t as excited about this as he is.
Normally this is reserved for women in films, and in life, to be honest. The script, by writer-director Nikole Beckwith (Stockholm, Pennsylvania), attempts to switch those roles and even attempts to go a tad to the neutral for both, as they meet in the middle, which is where we have been heading as a society; to erase the lines that separate us, since gender is a social construct anyway, and nothing to do with biology. Yes, it’s basically a Wikipedia page on how we divide ourselves. It can be changed at any time.
Together Together is so honest and sweet, it’s like getting dumped by a significant other without realizing it. There is a scene where Helm’s Matt is a tad sensitive and insecure about Harrison’s Anna bluntly telling people they are not together. In most films, she would either soothe him to the point of being patronizing or go the complete opposite by being so rude that it would border on cruel. Here, Anna is just plainly honest. Their age difference is an issue and in twenty years she would be more of a caretaker than his wife. Her comment and Matt’s reaction are honest, grounded, from people who are socialized and, as far as we can tell, well-adjusted.
Both actors are terrific in these roles. Each one is funny, endearing in their own way, and that keeps the viewer invested throughout the picture. I’d like to pay special attention to Helms. It’s a performance that is subtly different than anything he has ever done. The man-child shtick is gone. The lovable loser façade is no longer there. Helms and Harrison’s relationship always feels like it has the potential to be a second marriage. A different kind of love that can develop from mutual respect, honesty, and companionship, but not lust. Not that it ever gets there.
That’s what makes Beckwith’s vision such an interesting film. It’s done with such a light touch; the theme sneaks up on you. If you live in a box that says two are having a child, they must fall in love and stay together. A man shouldn’t be adopting a child alone, socially, many would question those motives. Everything Beckwith, Harrison, and Helms do moves them closer to gender-neutral character motivations.
Together Together is a Gen-Z romance, a platonic rom-com if there ever was one, even if Helms is too old to be in it.