While COVID-19 was supposed to be on the downswing when Bleeker Street decided to release Together, the Delta variant has questioned if we ever will truly return to normal. In that regard, director Stephen Daldry’s Together feels more like a portal into the life we’re about to return to than a reminder of what we’ve already lived through.
Our relationship with COVID 19 is similar to that of the main couple (at least initially); they both seem to hate each other, but stay together out of ignorance and spite. Yet as we get to know this couple (who are never given actual names), we learn how they’re at a level of love that goes beyond their hatred for one another. It’s a dynamic that feels intimate yet wholly relatable, especially during this pandemic.
We’ve all felt the overwhelming weight of helplessness and depression grip us over the past year. Hearing She (Sharon Horgan) talk about her mother dying alone drives home how isolation has been tearing people apart mentally.
So much so that in lieu of physical contact, society had to pivot to a technological connection. The decision to have the actors talk directly to the camera throughout the film is not unlike how we all began to converse with our screens via Zoom. The characters overshare and are a tad performative, mimicking the walls we’ve built to protect our emotions digitally.
The long takes that accompany many scenes allow us to truly understand these characters as they regale the terrible times they’ve had together. Every so often though, we get a subtle pan or an extremely slow zoom that seems to remind the viewer that this is in fact a film. It’s the moments where He (James McAvoy) and She aren’t interacting with the imaginary camera that Together becomes a beating heart of pandemic cinema. Daldry shows that no matter how much things change on a digital front, there will never be a replacement for the touch or kiss from a loved one.
The Silver Lining
From the very beginning, He and She make it clear that the only reason they’re together is because of their son, Artie (Samuel Logan). That’s why it’s so fascinating that Daldry keeps Artie mostly absent from the entire film. As the couple tried to work out their relationship, my mind would wander to Artie. How is his mental condition? How is he dealing with lockdown?
Dennis Kelly’s screenplay hints at the child’s well being when He mentions that Artie discusses with him the idea that humans are only prey, or when Artie wants to watch a parakeet die. It’s clear from these few scenes that Artie has been severely impacted by the pandemic, there’s no telling how that will materialize as he matures. While we may have a vaccine for the virus itself, there’s still no telling how this will affect the mental health of the next generation…
Together is now playing in select theaters.