Nicole Beckwith’s refreshing dramedy “Together Together” examines surrogacy without falling for the same old Hollywood clichés. This time the focus is on the man’s biological clock as Ed Helms plays a single guy in his forties who decides it’s now or never if he wants to father a child. He hires a barista in her 20s (Patti Harrison) to be his gestational surrogate and so over the course of nine months, the two get to know each other without really getting to know each other if you catch my drift. It’s funny, sentimental, and a bit awkward but then so is life.
You can’t call Beckwith’s film an unconventional romance because it’s not romantic (well, not really). Helms and Harrison don’t play characters that suddenly fall in love with each other despite their 20-year age difference. Both are charming and likable but strangely enough, you don’t find yourself hoping that they’ll eventually hook up and live happily ever after — what kind of “surrogate sorcery” is this?!
TOGETHER TOGETHER (2021)
Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, Rosalind Chao, Timm Sharp, Bianca Lopez, Nora Dunn, Fred Melamed
Directed by Nikole Beckwith
Even when the baby arrived, I felt happy and despondent at the same time but not disappointed. It’s weird to describe but it works thanks to the wonderful performances by Ed Helms — who’s perfect in the role — and Patti Harrison who I immediately became a huge fan of. Beckwith (“Stockholm, Pennsylvania”) manages to do what only a few filmmakers can do, bring a fresh perspective to a subject that we’ve seen before while making it genuine and authentic.
Helms plays 45-year-old Matt, a San Francisco app developer who’s never been lucky in the romance department. He’s single and a comfortable loner who decides it’s not too late to fulfill his dream of being a dad and raising a child. The clock is ticking so after interviewing candidates he chooses 26-year-old Anna (Harrison) to be his gestational surrogate, we get the feeling that she was the only candidate so what a relief for Matt.
The film opens as Matt interviews Anna by asking her questions that include “What’s the worse thing you’ve ever done?” She refuses to answer, “That’s private.” She also uses that same question later on Matt during the funny scene which reveals why Anna is considering being a surrogate, “This appeals to me because I know it’s not the best thing in the world being alone.” She snaps realizing that Matt may have taken that statement the wrong way as he scribbles notes on his pad. “I don’t think being alone is a bad thing” she explains while honestly informing Matt that she’s doing it for the money.
Anna had a child when she was in high school but gave up the baby for adoption. Matt listens in an almost judgmental tone adding he thought all the applicants had to be either raising children or had raised them to which she responds, “I think technically the requirement is that you had to have had a kid, which I have.” It doesn’t look like the interview is going so well but Anna makes her case when she admits, “I do know what it’s like to carry a baby and then give one up and this one wouldn’t even be mine.” That resonates with Matt especially when there’s always the fear that the surrogate is going to get attached to the child and decide to keep it. She seals the deal when she informs Matt that she has some questions too and opens with “What’s the worse thing you’ve ever done?” BAM!
Beckwith breaks the film down in trimesters as we watch Matt doing the most as an excited soon-to-be-dad. He wants to do pregnant couple things with Anna like going to all her doctor’s appointments and picking out furniture for the nursery together to which she agrees while both keep their boundaries. Matt wants to tell the world about the baby, while Anna wants to hide her pregnancy as long as possible so she can still go on dates and hook with guys which bothers Matt, “I’m mad because there was a random penis really close to my unborn baby!”
There tons of small awkward moments scattered through the film that seem to work themselves out as Matt and Anna do couple things without being a couple or falling for each other. Anna’s troubled past with her family comes to light. Matt of course is sensitive and caring and “Together Together” becomes an enjoyable film led by these two talented actors.
The supporting cast features the great Fred Melamed and Nora Dunn as Matt’s parents, a nice appearance by deadpan comic Tig Notaro doing what she does best as a couple’s counselor and funny Julio Torres as Anna’s barista coworker Jules.
The scene that hit me the hardest was Matt’s baby shower which he throws for himself. Usually, the expectant mom gets all the attention, but Anna gets lost in the background as Matt opens the gifts while friends and family laugh and celebrate. It’s understandable and she is cool with it, although Anna becomes overwhelmed with emotion and locks herself in the bathroom to chill out. It was the only time in the film that I really wanted the two of them to be a couple. It doesn’t help that Alex Somers’s sentimental piano score accompanies the scene.
“Together Together” is bathed in originality with touching performances by Ed Helms and Patti Harrison. For once, it’s invigorating to see a cliché-free film that doesn’t involve a mix-up with the baby or a surrogate that decides to keep the child.
Opens Friday, April 23 in Fort Worth at AMC The Parks at Arlington 18