Synopsis: A husband and wife are forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship through the reality of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Stars: James McAvoy, Sharon Horgan, Samuel Logan
Director: Stephen Daldry & Justin Martin
Running Length: 91 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: With the delta variant nipping at our heels just as much of the world was starting to get back to, maybe not a sense of true normalcy, but at least some semblance of what that mask-less reality could be, it might be difficult to encourage audiences to invest 90 minutes in Together. We all have our own version of what this past year was like; how it felt to go months without seeing friends and family, to watch as the number of people that died as the result of poor government planning and communal adherence to mandates rose exponentially, and how we started to fear the things we used to cherish like social gatherings, hugs, and face-to-face interactions. Knowing that, did we need to watch the couple at the center of this heavy dramedy over the course of a year rehash that same journey?
Beginning in March of 2020 during the first days of the COVD-19 lockdown in the U.K., we meet “he” (James McAvoy, Glass) and “she” (Sharon Horgan, Game Night) a couple with a kid (always roaming around the background somewhere) who aren’t on the best of terms when the film starts. They’re not exactly thrilled to be sheltering in place together, but with limited time to plan and few options in which to continue to co-parent, they talk directly to the camera and explain the current state of affairs. They also bicker…a lot. If you’re averse to rapid-fire dialogue between arguing couples that has bite to it, best to steer clear of this acidic pair.
As the months go by and the death toll rises, the two experience the lows of the darkest days when information was slim and slow to come as well as the highs of being forced to get to know one another again in a pressure-cooker situation. It’s often two steps forward, one step back, though, because inevitably any goodwill built is dashed when either the man or the woman says something that makes the other bristle. Real life tragedy enters the picture and the movie becomes a gripping glimpse at grief and the stages that follow the process and the processor of that emotion. It’s all handled with a surprisingly light touch and what could have been a painful exposure of re-opening old wounds instead becomes a visit to the recent past through a wiser lens of knowing better.
I suppose you could skip Together if you really are at the end of your rope with pandemic talk, but I’d encourage you to bookmark this for a viewing later because there’s some wonderful work on display both in front of and behind the camera. Directed by Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) who shares a co-directing credit with Justin Martin and written by Dennis Kelly (Black Sea), Together premiered in the UK as a television movie back in June, just a scant month after it’s 10-day shooting scheduled concluded. Relying hard on monologues and fourth wall breaking to heighten the theatricality of the piece, it might also be tempting to write this off as a stage-y work better suited for a live audience, yet I never felt as if this was presented via the wrong medium.
What McAvoy and Horgan lack in physical chemistry they more than make up for in a sort of old-school “sparks flying”, anything you can do I can do better, one-upmanship and that comes across nicely throughout. Just when you think McAvoy is getting the rosier side of a thorny subject, along comes Horgan with her own staggering monologue that puts her light years away from the razor-sharp comedy she’s known for. Apart or together, the actors are riveting to watch and Daldry works with cinematographer Iain Struthers (Florence Foster Jenkins) to keep the movement of the camera smooth and minimal, unobtrusive in not breaking the flow of the words.
It’s a hard watch, I’m not going to lie, for a number of reasons, but none should preclude you from gathering to catch the film. Though planned and broadcast as a television movie in the U.K., Together doesn’t have that waxy feel of British TV as it makes its way over to U.S. shores/audiences. The performances alone make it worth a recommendation and that the actors have tackled a hot button topic and kept the flames stoked only makes it a more solid thumbs up in my book.