Monday, February 1, 2021

Sundance with Abe: Together Together

I’m thrilled to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the eighth time. This year, I’m not in Park City, Utah, but watching films virtually and reviewing them as soon as I can.

Together Together
Directed by Nicole Beckwith
U.S. Dramatic Competition

There is no longer only one way to define a family, and the possibilities continue to expand with new ideas and more widely-accepted concepts. What people decide to do may not be what they expected or follow a particular plan, but no one can predict what will happen in their futures. Those who are tired of waiting to find the perfect partner and realize that they don’t need someone else to start a family may pursue options to secure their ability to parent, intent on getting started even if the circumstances aren’t entirely ideal and they’re not sure exactly what it is that they’ll need to do.

Matt (Ed Helms) is forty-five and has decided to have a baby. He has plenty of money and needs a surrogate. He selects Anna (Patti Harrison), a twenty-six-year-old in it for the chance to make a bit of cash and to earn herself some good karma. They set boundaries about how they will interact, divisions that begin to crumble as Matt’s good-natured overbearing personality causes Anna to gradually open up, ditching her signature sarcasm and antiestablishment attitude in favor of a genuine embrace of the man whose baby she is carrying.

This premise may sound familiar, and in a sense there isn’t all that much that’s new about it. Both Matt and Anna are single, and it seems all but guaranteed that, over the course of the film, they’ll become close. It’s the conversations that come up throughout about why they shouldn’t be a couple and where their opinions about the world and the baby in particular diverge that distinguish it. They both understand that they are entering into a business arrangement, though neither of them can fully anticipate what that means and how that will change both of them.

Helms, a comedic actor best known for “The Office” and “The Hangover,” gives a purposefully awkward and delicate performance as a man with many resources but lacking the ability to control everything. Opposite him, Harrison is terrific, challenging the simplest statements with a look or retort. Together, they’re a fantastic pair, both very funny and dramatically watchable. Even if this film isn’t a remarkably creative or fresh story, it tells the one it does feature so well, with great music and sharp editing to make each moment feel necessary and important. It’s a charming and very pleasant film that delivers solidly on its relatively familiar premise.


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