Together, the new Stephen Daldry film starring James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan, is the latest pandemic comedy to hit the market.
Perhaps the biggest thing about the very minimal cast is that Together feels much like a theatrical two-hander with its staging and monologues. For the record, I felt this way before reading the production notes. According to the film’s production notes: “Kelly originally conceived of Together as a stage play. The rapid-fire dialogue and long, emotional monologues seemed to call out for a live theater venue.”
You can really feel this when you’re watching the film. I’m curious how it would look had they shot the film in a theater sans audience. While it may have been conceived for theater, it first made its way to audiences across the pond in the UK as a British TV movie. American audiences can see the film in theaters if they so please. Hello awards season confusion–more on this later!
Every now and then, we see their son, Artie (Samuel Logan), on screen but it’s mostly James and Sharon commanding the screen. This is a couple that stays together for their son’s sake. Maybe they’d be better off splitting up given their differences. But for his sake, they’re in it for the long haul together as the film’s title implies. Outside of this, their pandemic experiences are no different than ours. They lose loved ones to the virus. Stephen Daldry and Dennis Kelly capture what we’ve been experiencing through key scenes as they jump through time, never spending too long in one place.
Dennis Kelly’s script spans much of the pandemic in the UK from the initial lockdown through the vaccines being rolled out and ultimately ending after a complete year in March 2021. He takes a different approach to that of Doug Liman’s dreaded Locked Down this past January. As an audience, we really get to see just how the pandemic affects the nameless couple, which the credits list only as He and She. But it’s less about Covid itself than the situation for their family. They’re among the types hoarding both toilet paper and laundry detergent early on. Much like other pandemic films though, we witness them falling apart. When you live in isolation for so long, things are sure to become uncomfortable. How soon before you begin to lose it? This film explores this but from a mixture of comedy and drama. But mostly comedy.
I know what you’re thinking: is this a Zoom movie? It is not. However, with the way they keep breaking the fourth wall, I felt like they were being followed by a robot filming on an iPad. You can see this in the staging and where they’re looking into the camera. For what it’s worth, director of photography Iain Struthers thinks of his role as more of a therapist visiting the family. When you take it from this perspective, it works especially with how they keep breaking the fourth wall. For me, this part grew more frustrating throughout the film but maybe it’s because I don’t really watch much content where the fourth wall is broken. It’ll either annoy and frustrate you or it won’t.
Only in America will a made-for-TV British movie get a theatrical release. This is sure to be confusing when it comes time for awards season. Is it a cinematic movie or a TV movie? I suppose all of this will come down to Stephen Daldry, much like Steve McQueen with last year’s Small Axe anthology series on Amazon.
Together never strays too far from its theatrical roots.
DIRECTOR: Stephen Daldry
CO-DIRECTOR: Justin Martin
SCREENWRITER: Dennis Kelly
CAST: James McAvoy, Sharon Horgan, Samuel Logan