Sweet, sensitive and surprisingly insightful, Nikole Beckwith’s “Together Together” fashions the signposts of the romantic comedy — the meet-cute, the misunderstanding, the mutual acceptance — into a wry examination of a very different relationship.
A dialed-down Ed Helms plays Matt, a middle-aged app designer as square as his name and with an air of touching loneliness. Matt’s longing to have a child, previously stymied by uncooperative girlfriends, is about to be satisfied by Anna (a wonderful Patti Harrison), a 26-year-old barista who has agreed to be his surrogate. A contract has been drawn up and a fee agreed upon; what hasn’t been settled is how they will manage the next nine months.
For Anna, who plans to continue living as usual until she delivers, there’s no need to make a fuss. But a hands-off pregnancy is not in Matt’s playbook, and an awkward celebration dinner is only the beginning of his well-meaning intrusions. Soon he’s showing up at her work bearing special tea and comfy clogs; not even her sex life is sacrosanct. (“So did you guys just do it?” he blurts, catching her with a man as they leave her apartment.)
Remarkably, none of this comes across as creepy or offensive, simply as Matt’s bumbling attempts to be a caring expectant father. He may have the financial power, but she’s in charge, and he’s trying to temper his anxieties and respect her boundaries. And while the movie is hardly immune to the cute and the quirky — like Julio Torres’s witty turn as Anna’s bizarre co-worker, or the awesome Sufe Bradshaw as a seen-it-all ultrasound technician — the two leads, who have an easygoing affinity, never allow the tone to stray too far from its bittersweet roots.
Gently funny and disarmingly poignant, “Together Together” is unusually attuned to the isolation of single fathers. At a baby shower, Matt looks on enviously as guests encircle Anna; in his surrogacy support group, he’s the only person without a partner. A scene where he struggles alone to tie a baby sling is one of the saddest sights I’ve seen all year.
Refusing to turn cartwheels to make us laugh, Beckwith’s script can be at times a little bland. Yet its key conversations feel authentic in a way that’s rare in movies of this type, its restraint ceding ground to the movie’s soothing platonic rhythms as Matt and Anna figure out how to grow a life and a friendship at one and the same time.
Rated R for anatomical accuracy. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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