Together Together Makes Other Rom-Coms Look Like Trash
The platonic love story rewrites its genre's script.
Minor spoilers below.
As many a Buzzfeed quiz has reminded me, I'm something of a rom-com aficionado. Name a rom-com, be it a cult classic or a Netflix Original, and I'm willing to bet I've seen (and probably cried through) it.
There are permutations galore — boy meets girl in childhood and she only realizes he's the one for her after traveling 17 years into the future; boy meets girl in high school and tries to impress her by hoisting a boombox over his head; boy meets girl when he's haunted by her spirit and must find a way to wake her from a coma — but they all ultimately boil down to the same basic structure: two people, against all odds, find one another and live happily ever after. Together Together rejects all of that.
Though marketed as a rom-com and featuring phenomenal chemistry between co-leads Patti Harrison and Ed Helms, Together Together is not the cinematic foxtrot you think it is. Nikole Beckwith's dramedy follows Matt (Helms), a single father-to-be, and Anna (Harrison), his surrogate. I know what you're thinking … They fall in love and raise the baby together. Well, you (and I) would be wrong. It turns out that a movie can be romantic and funny and silent-tear-rolling-down-the-cheek sentimental without a single sexual encounter. What are the odds!
Watching the film for the first time during this year's Sundance Film Festival, I was somewhat shocked by this act of norm-defiance. Where's the peck on the lips that turns into a Penthouse-worthy night of passion? Where's the best friend who puts the protagonist's feelings into perspective? Where's the grand fucking gesture?? And then I asked myself why the presence of sex was my mental pre-requisite for a satisfying rom-com arc. The answer? It's all I've ever known! When I stopped to think about it (and began to retrain my brain), the decision to keep Anna and Matt's relationship platonic was actually the most pioneering creative choice for a film that very easily could've devolved into a prolonged game of prenatal footsy.
Together Together isn't the only romantic film to take the platonic route of late. SXSW standout Language Lessons, for instance, focused on a recently widowed man's bond with his virtual Spanish teacher. And more and more, we're even seeing the post-romantic perspective on relationships, like with quarantine rom-com The End of Us, which follows a newly separated couple as they're forced to maintain their living arrangements through the pandemic, or the millennial-aimed We Broke Up, which turns a beloved rom-com trope on its head when a pair of exes pretend to be together so as not to upset the peace at a family wedding.
Breaking up is in — and so is never getting together in the first place.
Fertility rom-coms are a particularly cliche-leaning bunch. Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman-starrer The Switch is, by plot summary alone, a problematic fave, but I'd be lying if I told you the full-circle ending didn't make me cry every damn time (yes, I've seen The Switch more than once). Spoilers aside, Together Together manages to place its every piece before the end credits roll — and even without a long-awaited kiss or a promise of "forever," I was still crying hearty rom-tears by the final scene.
Together Together opens in theaters April 23.