Directed by Stephen Daldry.
Starring Sharon Horgan, James McAvoy and Samuel Logan.
A couple on the edge of breaking up try to survive lockdown together.
The pandemic was hard for everyone. In recent memory, no world event has been felt or experienced so universally, and the effect on the film industry has been devastating. While other world changing moments of the twenty first century have found themselves on the big screen years after they took place, the pandemic again has differed, perhaps a result of its longevity. A small subgenre comprising films made during or about lockdown has been growing over this year, and even on TV, episodes from series as wide ranging as South Park, Black-ish, and Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet have explored what their characters would have gone through in such a time. And yet, nothing has really come close to approximating the actuality of life over the course of lockdown, something that Together strives for above all else.
A man and woman (never named and simply referred to as “He” and “She”) can’t stand each other, despite being in a relationship and living together with their son. Then lockdown hits, and the three are forced to spend months in each other’s company, stuck at home. With a nod to Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Dennis Kelly’s script deals mostly in exposition; storytelling delivered directly to the camera. Thankfully, the material is highly witty and never too self-indulgent (though it certainly comes close), and is delivered by two fine actors in the capable hands of experienced director Stephen Daldry.
Sharon Horgan plays the female character, a kind liberal who works with refugees, and on the other end of the spectrum, James McAvoy plays the male, a radical capitalist whose job title is somewhat unclear. They make about as much sense as a couple as Alien and Predator. As the insults fly and immediately cut deep in the opening sequence, it may already be clear how forced interaction in an enclosed space will develop the relationship of the two characters. Yet Kelly sidesteps predictability, using the extremity of the character’s differences, and their dislike for one another, to push past anything obvious or sanitised, and create hilarity whilst doing so.
Jumping through the Covid timeline in the UK, Together hits one familiar sentiment after another, tackling feelings of grief and disillusionment, as well as examining the quiet reflective growth that the time afforded to many. The new normal is put under a microscope, with the film covering furlough, self-isolation, and even newly regulated funerals. Yes, it is didactic at times, but the film isn’t so much aiming to teach a lesson as it is giving an accurate representation of what became the thought process common to the public majority as lockdown dragged on. As Horgan explains exponential growth to make a point, the character aims not just to educate but to understand herself – to try and put into works the totally blindsiding feeling that the world had irreversibly changed overnight.
Overtly political, Together pulls its punches aimed at the government, cutting off McAvoy as he tries to verbalise his exasperation at the failure he has experienced. But the character arc is perhaps statement enough, making for a film that is decisive, informative, and brave enough to provide an unflinching look. The script is theatrical – it may have worked better on stage – and for those unimpressed by the relentless dialogue as found in films like Destination Wedding, there might not be much to excite or impress. Nevertheless, the film is monumental, certainly the best of the pandemic subgenre, and in its sentiments and emotions it is insightful and striking.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★