'Together Together' Review: A Sweet, If Inconsequential, Comedy [Sundance 2021]

Together Together is a love story – kind of. This is not the typical romantic love story that Hollywood usually pumps out; it's a story about platonic love. About finding a connection with another human being that isn't based on seduction or romance. And that's refreshing! More stories like this from the movies would be welcomed. Unfortunately, the film that's built around that platonic love story is lacking, resulting in a film that's sweet and kind but also kind of forgettable.

Middle-aged Matt (Ed Helms) and 20-something Anna (Patti Harrison) are complete opposites who likely would never have been drawn to one another under normal circumstances. But the two don't meet under normal, or at least casual, circumstances. Instead, Anna will become a gestational surrogate for Matt's child. Matt is single, and is ready to become a single parent. Anna will carry his baby and get paid for the trouble – both monetarily and, as she puts it, she'll also be "Putting a little good karma in the bank."

Anna thinks the situation will be relatively straightforward. She and Matt will only see each other sporadically, she'll go about her routine, eventually give birth, hand the baby over to Matt, and then go about the rest of her life. But Matt has other ideas. He's constantly finding ways to butt into Anna's daily routine. He shows up at her work. He invites her to dinner. He becomes a major presence in her life.

Right away, there's a chance this entire set-up could backfire spectacularly. Matt could easily be seen by some as a kind of creepy stalker who refuses to respect Anna's boundaries, but it's to the credit of writer-director Nikole Beckwith, and stars Helms and Harrison, that we never really get that impression. Yes, Matt's inability to leave Anna alone seems a little weird, but Helms plays the character in such a way that it never feels predatory, and Harrison feels more bemused than completely annoyed at Matt's clinginess.

Before long, Anna is moving into Matt's house and the two are growing closer. Again: this could've backfired. And if this were a mainstream studio pic, I imagine some producer somewhere would insist that Anna and Matt enter into a romantic relationship, age differences be damned. But Together Together doesn't make that mistake. Yes, it brings these two loners together, but their relationship is strictly platonic. They're very close friends who find a certain comfort in one another.

When Together Together is letting its characters act human, it sings. Helms and Harrison know just how to tap into the melancholy side of their characters, as when Matt softly says, in regards to his situation of becoming a single parent, "It's weird to be perceived as hopeless in this moment I'm incredibly hopeful." Or when Anna, reflecting on her estranged family, not-quite-bitterly comments, "The only way they were going to be happy is if I was wildly unhappy."

Scenes like this are achingly human and all-too-real. Which is why it's so damned frustrating when Together Together spends most of its time going for maximum quirkiness. It's the type of comedy where the majority of the characters act like space aliens who have just come to earth and are slowly learning our customs, and that's supposed to be funny. "Look at the absolutely weird way these characters are reacting to stuff – hilarious, right?" No, not especially.

The comedy on display here is so forced and without charm that it made me wish Beckwith and company had abandoned any attempt at humor and instead tried to make Together Together more of a straightforward drama with occasionally funny moments. That's the better version of this film, and you can see it trying to claw its way out from beneath all the quirks.

What keeps Together Together from completely capsizing is its ability to occasionally dip back into those more human moments. Moments like when Matt and Anna confess their love for each other, with Anna perfectly summing it up by saying she loves Matt in a not-gross, boring way. Telling someone you love them in a boring way may not sound sweet, but it genuinely is here. More moments like that, and less of almost everything else, would've held Together Together together.

/Film rating: 6 out of 10