Together: Let Me Out, by David Bax
There’s already been a handful of movies made about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but, apart from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and the documentary 76 Days, I haven’t watched any of them. So I was eager to dig into Together, a professional affair directed by Billy Elliot‘s Stephen Daldry and starring two wonderful actors, Sharon Horgan and James McAvoy. Let me tell you, the speed with which I went from excitement to, “Oh, no” might have broken records.
Together is a good movie for its first dozen or so seconds, transporting us back to the early, eerie days of lockdown where getting groceries was the event of the week, even if it brought anxiety about whether your produce or even the bags themselves were somehow contaminated. Then, the two characters–a never-named couple with a child of about seven–turn and start talking to the camera. And then they keep doing it for nearly every moment of the movie.
So, with the exception of a couple of sustained scenes, Together takes the form of a kind of two person soliloquy (a duoloquy?). Maybe this format would be slightly less insufferable on stage but I spent the next 90 minutes feeling like I was watching two people describe the movie I’d rather be watching.
Of course, it does help things when the people doing all the talking are dynamic, magnetic actors, especially in the moments when they’re dialoguing with each other instead of talking at us. McAvoy’s charisma makes you understand why people go for his character’s right wing, individualist philosophies and Horgan is sharp and hilarious with her character’s left wing critiques. Oh, right. Did I forget to mention the two are politically opposed? Not even these two talents can rescue Together from the obviousness of its conceit.
These last eighteen months or so have put a lot of our beliefs about ourselves and each other to the test. The couple in the film are forced to examine the difference between what they say and what they do but, more importantly, to find the delineation between what they believe and what they value. But we all had to do that, to decide at times between seeing or not seeing the people we love and between following the guidelines for the greater good and taking an opportunity to enjoy the world while it’s still here. To see these dilemmas played out in such a pat and clever way risks belittling our shared struggles.
Still, the film’s most egregious failure to capture the experience of the pandemic is not in these big issues. It’s actually in the small ones, or the lack thereof. Most of our time in various stages of lockdown has not been spent gnashing our teeth over decisions and differences. It was small moments, trying to fill the time with something other than worry or trying to remember what everyday things used to be like not so long ago. Together eliminates the many little moments that have made up the pandemic and turns it all into cheap melodrama.