I have some strong opinions on the gender ethical issues involved with surrogate mother, but I enjoyed a number of witty comic moments in “Together Together”. While never overlooking the complex nature of its two main characters’ relationship, this little but charming work lightly swings back and forth between comedy and drama as they respectively try to handle their complicated situation during their bumpy emotional journey, and the result is more sensitive and thoughtful than expected.
The two main characters of the film are Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison), and the early part of the film gradually establishes their tricky circumstance. While he is a divorced man in the 40s, Matt wants to have a child to raise without marrying someone again. Just because he prefers to have his own biological offspring instead of adoption, he comes to hire Anna, and she has no problem with being pregnant with his baby for next several months as a young healthy woman without any fertility problem. As a matter of fact, she once got pregnant and then gave up a baby several years ago, and it looks like she can do that again without much regret as before.
As everything is ready for him and Anna, Matt talks about that to several people around him including his parents, but, to his bafflement, Anna prefers to keep their deal to herself at least for a while, even though she will eventually not be able to hide her pregnancy anymore after the second trimester. While she is going to pay attention to her pregnancy as much as possible, she also wants to live her own life as usual, and we get a little amusing moment when Matt comes to learn that she can have an active sex life without much problem just like any other average pregnant woman.
Anyway, Matt tries as much as he can for supporting Anna and then getting a healthy baby of his own in the end. Besides preparing a room for the baby in his residence, he and Anna often go to a specialized therapist for more advice and counsel, and he also begins to attend a support group meeting while she attends the one for surrogate mothers like her.
Needless to say, Matt is basically exploiting Anna’s body in exchange of money, and that aspect is more apparent to us as we observe more of how he is on the verge of crossing the boundaries between them at times. Although they are supposed to stick to each other’s business, he gets involved into Anna’s private life more than he is allowed by her, and she is not so pleased because she has her own matter to deal with. She wants to restart her college education, and she is going to use the money from Matt for that, but she is still not so sure about her future, while also coping with all those emotional problems involved with her ongoing pregnancy.
As its two main characters comically struggle to set boundaries and then balance themselves within these boundaries, the screenplay by director/writer Nikole Beckwith, who previously made a feature debut with “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” (2015), leisurely moves from one episodic moment to another with considerable wit and humor. At one point later in the story, the mood becomes quite cheerful as Matt holds the baby shower party to be attended by his friends and family members, and even Anna and her parents are invited, but then we come to sense some strain when Anna becomes more aware of how others around her pay more attention to her baby than how she has been doing. After all, she is the one who carries the baby all the time, but she is not so appreciated much on the whole, and that certainly affects her relationship with Matt.
As the time for Anna’s delivery is getting closer and closer, the situation becomes more serious between her and Matt, but the movie wisely avoids rolling them into romantic situation. While Matt actually considers that possibility a bit, Anna makes it clear to him that getting more involved with each other emotionally is not practical to both of them at all. Sure, he comes to care about her with more appreciation for her biological labor, and she certainly appreciates that, but she sticks to her boundaries nonetheless.
During the expected finale, the movie remains true to its two main characters while leaving some unresolved matters to be handled by them in one way or another, and its two lead performers did a commendable job of conveying their complicated emotional status to us. Although he has been mainly known for a number of comedy films including “The Hangover” (2009), Ed Helms demonstrates a more serious side of his talent here, and his nuanced performance is matched well with an equally good performance by Patti Harrison, who ably takes the center along with Helms throughout the film. Helms and Harrison are also supported well by several notable supporting performers including Tig Notaro, Sufe Bradshaw, and Fred Melamed, and the special mention goes to Julio Torres, who often steals the show as Anna’s flamboyant gay co-worker.
In conclusion, “Together Together” is a modest but solid mix of comedy and drama, and I like how it handles its rather sensitive main subject with enough tactfulness and sensitivity. Around the end of the story, you will notice how much its two main characters are changed under their complex situation, and you may also wonder what they are going to do next. Sure, nothing is certain for them, but each of them did learn something, and that is important, isn’t it?