Josh Carone ‘22 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Marriage Story meets Covid-19 in Together, a marital study from director Stephen Daldry and writer Dennis Kelly. Set in February 2020 through roughly March 2021, the film contemplates the grim reality many couples faced in last year’s lockdown: living together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The eponymous couple, referred to only as “He” and “She,” couldn’t be any more different. He is a successful entrepreneur whose conservative ideology and “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality is tested by the economic dismay of the pandemic. She is a left-leaning moderate whose own moral code is equally tested by the inherent selfishness needed to survive a pandemic. In other words, it’s a match made in heaven.
William Goldman once said that the best shots are the ones you don’t notice, and this certainly rings true in Together. The filmmaking is very contained, controlled, and feels more like a stage play than a movie. The characters often talk directly to camera, giving the film an almost “vlog-like” quality that augments the realness of Together without compromising the story.
Given the minimal technical artistry, the film relies heavily on its performances for its success. Luckily, James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan rise to the occasion. McAvoy infuses every character he plays with a grounded pathos, and he certainly brings it in Together. There’s one scene in particular where McAvoy struggles to light a joint with a faltering lighter, and it’s all the audience can do not to reach across the screen and offer him a light. Horgan equals McAvoy’s performance, bringing a dramatic prowess often forgotten by lovers of Catastrophe and her other comedic roles. One of her character’s story lines is her ailing mother, and in one of the more pivotal scenes in the film, Horgan admits to McAvoy the emotional confusion of watching a parent die from behind a Zoom screen. It’s a powerful moment, and although Kelly’s airtight script is partly responsible, it’s Horgan’s chops that carry the load.
However, the problem with Together is that it’s a period piece in an ongoing period. Audiences, particularly now, look to films as a mode of escape, and Daldry’s film about a couple living and breathing the pandemic is anything but escapist. Certain scenes make you cringe; Horgan walking through the front door with a mask on is an unpleasant reminder that the wounds of 2020 are still scabbing. Perhaps the film would’ve done better at the box office had it been released five years down the line, when audiences could reminisce about the struggles of the pandemic instead of living through them.