by George Wolf
We’re living in unprecedented times – that’s no news flash. But the daily process of navigating the minefield of consequences from this pandemic can beat down our psyche until acceptance is required for survival.
While it may be decades until we can fully fathom the extremes we’re going through right now, filmmakers have been showing impressive instincts for adapting to on-set constraints, and reflecting on our currently shared experience.
Enjoying Together may depend upon how much you welcome the reminder.
Filmed in under two weeks with a cast of just three in a single location, the film finds humor and poignancy while mining both the intimate and more universal aspects of a nationwide lockdown.
The nation is Great Britain, where we meet He (James McAvoy) and She (Sharon Horgan) at the beginning of the quarantine, when onscreen text begins keeping track of the days and the casualties.
He’s a bootstrap conservative just fine with buying privilege, while she’s a power to the people “communist.” They were splitting up even before lockdown, so now that they’re forced to stay together, he hates her face, she wants to feed him poison mushrooms, and they both speak directly to the camera while trying to keep the worst of their vitriol away from son Artie (Samuel Logan).
Directors Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader) and Justin Martin (debut feature) use the broken fourth wall and the multiple extended takes to draw us in and make us part of the conversation.
Writer Dennis Kelly provides McAvoy and Horgan with funny, biting barbs and heartfelt monologues, and the two actors consistently find authentic levels of humor and emotion – even in the moments when it starts to feel we’re being talked to instead of with. He and She are demanding, intense roles, and both McAvoy and Horgan respond with fiery, nuanced turns that alone make the film worthwhile.
In between the mounting death toll and the promise of a vaccine, Together glimpses how our lives have been changed in small, inconvenient ways and larger, heartbreaking ones. And as an impressionable child waits in the next room while his parents get closer to their true feelings, American audiences may especially notice the missing chapter on pandemic death cults.
But in our darkest days, art has always been there to help us question, laugh, cry and heal. So while using a welcome night out to spend time back in lockdown may seem as entertaining as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, this film just wants you to know there’s hope if we just stay…