Review by Sean Boelman
Many filmmakers have risen to the supposed challenge of creating art in response to the challenges we have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have done so to varying degrees of success. Stephen Daldry’s Together is on the higher end of that spectrum, although it is borderline pretentious at many points.
The movie follows a couple whose relationship dissolves after they are forced to be stuck together during the lockdown. It’s something that many of us can relate to, since this isolation is something that we have all experienced for much of the past year and a half, but watching a relationship in shambles against the backdrop of tragedy does feel somewhat trite.
Dennis Kelly’s script takes the form of a series of moments from this couple’s relationship in a time period spanning from the beginning of the pandemic to more recently, as the distribution of vaccines began. It’s a bunch of monologues and dialogues sewn together, and some of them admittedly stretch on for a bit longer than they should.
And at a certain point, the film devolves into a mess of angry yelling about the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s cathartic, yes, as many of the frustrations voiced by the characters, especially in regards to the governmental response to the pandemic, will be shared by the viewer, but it also makes it distractingly obvious that we are watching a movie.
It’s also frustrating that the characters in the movie don’t feel fully fleshed-out. It clearly seems as if Kelly has written composites to stand-in for the average citizen, but in trying to make them into someone that everyone can connect with, it ends up feeling as if we are watching no one in particular.
That said, the two central performances are so good that it makes up for any deficiencies in the script. Both James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan are absolutely captivating, giving turns that are more reminiscent of stagework than screen acting. But given the extremely limited nature of the film, it is quite effective.
The thing about the movie that will most likely divide viewers will be the frequent breaking of the fourth wall. At first, there’s a dark humor to the way in which these two individuals are bitterly shooting indirect jabs at each other by talking to the audience, but the ingenuity of this wears off after about thirty minutes.
Together offers some solid insight on what it is like to live during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good were it not for strong performances from James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan. It’s a film carried on its actors’ backs, and McAvoy and Horgan step up to the plate.
Together hits theaters on August 27 and VOD on September 14.