SUNDANCE 2021! Caroline Cao Reviews A May/December Friend-mance in “Together Together”By Caroline Cao | February 15, 2021 | Entertainment
Is the rom-com equivalent term for a platonic relationship a friendship flick? This is Ed Helms and Patti Harrison‘s dynamic in Nikole Beckwith‘s Together Together. They navigate surrogacy and friendship and their boundaries getting tested by the world or themselves. So how do you bill a love story where a man and woman lie platonically together in bed and declare “I love you,” without the forced Hollywood obligation of sexual and romantic intimacy?
When 26-year-old Anna, played by Harrison, is sought out by the middle-aged and bumbling white guy Matt, played by Helms, to serve as the surrogate for his child, she’s looking for college tuition funding, not a pal. Through some well-intended but pestering gift-giving attempts, Matt starts inserting himself into her life. Eventually, because it’s inevitable, she warms up to him and they become the sort of buddies who sit through viewing marathons of Friends and confront — or dance around — the finiteness of their relationship.
It’s a scenario far from heteronormative understanding. One subversive detail is that Matt doesn’t see his impending single parenthood as tragic, although he’s aware that society looks oddly on it, and his single childrearing aspiration linked to any bygone yearnings with his previous partners. And being a woman of color, Anna is the wariest of the pair and a respectful distance is given to her backstory with sparse details: we know she comes from a conservative family, gave away one child in high school and doesn’t want to be perceived as a failure.
Anna cannot always afford to match with Matt’s outgoingness at times and has to school him in addressing boundaries and blind spots, such as instructing him to teach a child to insert a tampon. There’s no brochure for their transactional and friendly dynamic, and there’s barely a guidebook for them to navigate the microaggressions from the outside world that could assume things of them.
As for Matt, the kind of white liberal dude who makes flubs, he learns and absorbs. But even as he grows more receptive to her emotional needs, the inherent inequalities orbit Anna. Watch how Harrison mournfully experiences the baby shower and guests pay attention to her belly and she realizes she won’t always fit in his space. Her wariness culminates into a final shot that reminds us to remember how Anna feels.
photo credit: Sundance Institute