Review: COVID set drama 'Together' falls apart
Courtesy of Bleecker Street
One of the better “Quarantine” flicks to come from this new subgenre of COVID-19 inspired entertainment (and that’s not necessarily a compliment), Stephen Daldry’s “Together” pits two heavyweights (James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan) mano-a-mano in isolation. Filmed in 10 days and joining the ranks of “Songbird,” “Locked Down,” and “Stuck at Home” in the COVID-19 cinematic universe (not good company), this “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” inspired surrey wears its premise thin and despite two crafty performances, can’t shake the exploitative feeling of taking place during a pandemic in which we’re still living. As a one act play in 45 minutes, “Together” makes sense, but stretch it any farther and it begins to tear. I know we often say art imitates reality, but people need an excuse to escape and in the case of “Together,” it’s a stiff reminder of reality.
Darkly comic and creative in its execution, “Together” begins seconds after Britain is placed under lock down in March 2020. We meet two characters named He (McAvoy) and She (Horgan) as they volley insults back and forth about their political beliefs, careers, sex life etc. Not a healthy dynamic and their relationship was obviously on the rocks before COVID upended daily life. They’ve got a young son who sits in the background as McAvoy and Horgan chew up the screen, often breaking the fourth wall and talking directly into the camera in some desperate bid to make the viewer choose a side. Instead, I felt borderline uncomfortable.
At least McAvoy and Horgan unspool the monologues and rapid-fire Aaron Sorkin-esq dialogue with relative ease, keeping things conversational and light when they need to be, though most of “Together” deals with heavy topics. One extended sequence see’s Horgan explain in meticulous detail the slow death of her mother from COVID. It’s a heartbreaking scene that should be shown to anyone who still thinks the pandemic is fake news, but aside from that brief, touching moment, “Together” is a slew of personal attacks and vendettas hashed out in real time (the occasional fun asides are few and far between). Sadly, there’s not much worth grappling on to or getting invested in, and it seems the only thing Daldry wants to showcase is two people clearly miserable in their situation.
There’s nothing wrong with two handers and intimate, single setting location dramas with a topical flavor and the soliloquies written into the script give the audience insight into who these characters are outside of solitary confinement. But you must ask yourself, at the end of the day, if we should care if this specific marriage survives the pandemic? It’s a mixed bag of emotions and the legacy of “Together” won’t be favorable in five years when, hopefully, we’re out of this mess.
Hell, It’ll be forgotten by next week.
TOGETHER opens in theaters Friday, August 27th