Directed by: Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin
Premise: Set in the UK during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, a couple (James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan) reevaluates their relationship.
What Works: Together takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic but it’s less about the health crisis and much more about a couple forced to confront the tensions in their relationship. The film largely succeeds due to the witty script by Dennis Kelly and the performances by James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan. This is a movie about a couple who do not like each other and in fact despise one another. That could make them insufferable to be around but the film presents its scenario with a lot of humor. Watching McAvoy and Horgan’s characters vividly describe their revulsion for each other is very funny. The couple is so entertaining in their misery that we might not want them to reconcile but McAvoy and Horgan’s characters are also given moments of vulnerability. That’s one of Together’s outstanding qualities – it’s skillful management of the tone. The movie is at turns funny and heartbreaking and it transitions smoothly from one emotion to the next. Together comes across very much like a stage play. All of the action is contained within a single-family home, with most of the action playing out in the kitchen and the living room, and the actors directly address the audience. Despite the limitations, directors Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin make this material sufficiently cinematic, moving the camera and the characters and using depth of field to keep the movie visually interesting.
What Doesn’t: The film’s regard for the audience is inconsistent. From the opening scene and throughout much of the movie, the two protagonists directly address the audience as though we are in the room with them. But the characters stop doing that in the latter portion of the movie in which Together plays as a straightforward drama. It’s unclear what to make of the approach. The filmmaking doesn’t have the look and feel of a documentary nor does the camera appear to participate in the action. It’s a strange combination of traditional feature filmmaking and cinema verité techniques and the result is uneven.The two characters and the film are so wrapped up in the drama of the tempestuous relationship that the young son is pushed into the background. In the opening scene the couple acknowledge that their child is the only thing keeping them together but the boy is barely a part of the movie. The parents rarely even acknowledge his presence.
Bottom Line: Together is a very stagy motion picture but it works as a relationship drama. James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan are eminently watchable and the film is likable. Together ultimately offers a hopeful vision of post-pandemic life.
Episode: #867 (September 5, 2021)