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Nikole Beckwith Together Together Review


Together Together | Review

Together Together | Review

A Womb of One’s Own: Beckwith Basks in Basics with Sterile Dramedy

Nikole Beckwith Together Together ReviewThe tricky intersections of gestational surrogacy provide a scenario automatically rife with narrative possibilities, which explains why so many contemporary films have navigated the complex, unexpected potential dilemmas such a situation creates. Even the basic concept, which in some regards highlights a woman’s agency over her body in such a way she can use it for economic benefit (whereas prostitution, on the other hand, carries a social stigma, if not legal repercussions in most of the US, the key difference being a continual puritanical attitude towards sex and sexual pleasure), also suggests her subservience to her employers, who wield control through class, wealth, and overall access to her.

Such fascinating moral and ethical possibilities are not really in the fore of the quaint, by-the-numbers indie exercise Together Together, the sophomore film writer/director Nikole Beckwith, which has a lot to say but ultimately feels glacially trepidatious in making any real assertions. Bogged down by its faux-mechanics as a romantic dramedy, it’s about as vanilla and emotionally detached from the reality of this scenario as one could get.

Fortysomething Matt (Ed Helms) is a lonely San Francisco professional in search of a surrogate for a child he wishes to rear on his own. Through his interview process, he stumbles on twenty-six-year-old Anna (Patti Harrison), herself experiencing existential ennui thanks to estrangement from her family following a teen pregnancy which disrupted her education, while her child was given up for adoption. Matt’s excitement proves to be an infectious jolt of joy for Anna, who responds reluctantly to his fervor. Eventually bonding emotionally, their relationship begins to blur the boundaries of the situation, forcing them to begin confronting underlying reasons for their respective stagnation.

Both Matt and Anna dance around the possibility of elevating their connection beyond the platonic. As two lonely people caught in a unique scenario which allows them to fulfill dormant emotional needs, their trajectory isn’t surprising. Beckwith chooses to throw the possibility of a full-blown romantic interlude into a brick wall when snuffed by a diatribe about Woody Allen (Beckwith notably uses the same opening credit font customary to Allen’s filmography, perhaps as a way to claim ownership over the auteur’s predatorial narratives often concerned with older, intellectual men preying on the naivete of nubile young women). Citing Annie Hall and Manhattan as examples to justify why a romance between themselves would be grossly inappropriate (instead of highlighting how their economic exchange is more of a sticking point), the conversation becomes moot, though the essence of its energies remain thanks to how boundaries continue to be crossed between the two adults.

Initially, the Allen reference seems to be a cue for Together Together to get itself together and say something meaningful about, ostensibly, these privileged neurotics engaged in one of the most unnecessary procreative options available to humankind. Instead, the scenario treads water, depending upon cliches, like stuffing all the most obnoxious stereotypes of what the misinformed might say to a surrogate at a dreadful baby shower.

The aftereffects of said shower bring us to the third act (the film is divided up by trimester, which also lends this a rote sensibility), and eventual reconnection. They’ve gorged themselves on watching every episode of “Friends” (a reference Anna doesn’t know, which seems curious considering her cultural familiarity in other arenas), one of the most woefully milquetoast creations of American television (and let’s not forget how it ripped of the Black series “Living Single”), and resort to previous behaviors, all for us to be left in the lurch. The scenario, like the figure of Woody Allen, is essentially a ‘problematic’ one, but posed in a way which doesn’t wish to sacrifice itself, which ends up feeling unsatisfactory. It’s okay if Matt and Anna aren’t entirely likeable beings—but this rosy-tinted glow suggests we have no option but to embrace (or at least condone) them because their foibles are minor or forgivable. If one is going to court the arena of the ‘problematic,’ it’s best to jump right into the gray zone and at least find some authentic humanity.

Whatever the uncomfortable hindsight now attached to Annie Hall or Manhattan, these are cultural artifacts requiring more than a superficial challenge on how troublesome their reflections of gender dynamics in the heteropatriarchy rankle (arguably, these behaviors were as repellant as the time they were filmed, the difference being we’re finally all talking about it). There’s no one in Together Together vocalizing the insidious realities of class and gender (or privilege, race, et al., considering we’re only seeing the bright and sparkly veneer of San Francisco) underlying the ‘relationship,’ both personal and professional, of Matt and Anna.

While Harrison, a writer/actor who contributes to the exceptionally brazen “Big Mouth,” does provide allure as Anna, we’re left wanting to explore her more, especially as she’s outfitted with a traumatic past, and thus feels like if Winnie Cooper grew up to be Aubrey Plaza. Like Promising Young Woman (2020), a personal tragedy has relegated her to being a coffee shop employee (where co-worker Julio Torres provides bizarre, but eventually monotonous comic relief—and like Emerald Fennell’s film, mimics both the occupation and LGBTQ+ representative as supportive sidekick). How she affords to live on her own (prior to surrogacy), comfortably, in San Francisco, is another detail brushed under the rug.

As her counterpart, it would be fantastic if Ed Helms were to break away from his usual man-child shtick, the eternal hapless professional, because he enhances the overall cliched element of Together Together, and, if anything, casts doubt over the character’s ability or drive to be a parent. Having developed a successful app called Loner (which is meant to showcase the meaningless side of social media, but the tone isn’t flippant enough), Matt has no idea what to do with himself instead of create a baby from scratch to fill his void. Beckwith’s script wanders through basic explanations in their dialogue exchange on this matter, but it never rings true and certainly isn’t compelling.

Tig Notaro scores some laughs as a droll counselor assigned to guide them through the emotional complexities, while alums like Nora Dunn and Fred Melamed have little to do beyond minor stereotyping as Helms’ self-involved parents. For a more glossy and strangely more subversive (and arguably feminist) take on surrogacy, Baby Mama (2008) presents a similar scenario of privileged people delegating procreative powers, while Jeremy Hersh’s phenomenal The Surrogate (2020) challenges us to look at the reality such a scenario engenders. A twee, tinkly score from Alex Somers demands the activation of our whimsy, but Together Together, for all its insistence, needed to have blown itself apart instead of wallowing in the banalities of two lonely people who are too afraid, despite all their opportunities, to live out loud.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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