Platonic love is not something that is often portrayed on film, but Nikole Beckwith’s Together Together shows how two people who will not end up together and may never see each other again can still love without falling in love.
Ed Helms and Patti Harrison star as Matt and Anna. Matt is a successful app designer who wants to start a family, despite not having a woman in his life. Anna is a young barista who acts as Matt’s surrogate to build his family. Together, they attempt to get to know each other and navigate their lives for the next nine months.
Matt reads every parenting book he can and never doubts his ability and his desire to raise a child. Anna needs the money to go back to school. Through every awkward couple’s therapy session, surrogate support group meeting and Matt’s interloping into Anna’s life, they further interact and learn to love each other a bit with each passing day.
The film never treats a character as an archetype, but rather as a complex human with shifting beliefs and emotions. Matt seems like the stereotypical straight-laced anal-retentive personality, but his growing comfort around Anna expands his horizons and allows him to grow as the film grows. Meanwhile, Anna wants to treat this more as a transaction than giving Matt his family. Her coldness and indifference also wains as her and Matt spend more time together.
Beckwith’s script and direction avoid the obvious directions the story could go. Matt never declares his undying love and Anna never questions whether or not she is in love with Matt. Their 20-year age difference (despite Helm’s youthful glow) is specifically mentioned as one of the reasons they couldn’t be together, even in a hypothetical situation. The film does not have resounding laugh-out-loud moments, but still carries a light, joyful tone. The film’s biggest laughs come from Anna’s co-worker Jules (Julio Torres), who waxes eloquent about getting tattoos with his lover’s names and hoping Anna’s baby doesn’t turn out straight.
Helms’ natural comedic abilities shine through without ever expressly trying to be funny. His natural warmth lends credence to his baby mission and you never question his necessary sensitivity in order to raise a child by himself. Patti Harrison really shines in a role that easily could have devolved into the cliched bohemian, her character’s context gives her added depth. Her prickly chemistry with Helms is enriched as her character learns to adapt to his rhythms, highlighted by a scene where Matt and Anna chose between paint swatches to color the baby’s room. When characters laud Anna as a hero, Harrison never really knows what to say and nails the grey nature of the surrogate relationship.
Other familiar faces show up for brief moments, like Fred Melamed and Nora Dunn as Matt’s estranged parents, Tig Notaro as their therapist, the aforementioned Torres and Sufe Bradshaw as a hillariously judgemental ultrasound technician.
Beckwith proves herself to be a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to explore the real feelings between relationships while Helms and Harrison make a wonderfully mismatched couple. Together Together is a delightful exploration of platonic love.