TOGETHER (2021)

August 26, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. As expected, we are beginning to see an influx of “pandemic” movies and TV shows. What wasn’t expected is the unique and creative approach in this one from Co-directors Stephen Daldry (THE HOURS, 2002) and Justin Martin. The script is from Dennis Kelly and the writing, directing, and acting all work together seamlessly to create quite an unusual viewing experience.

The weight of the movie rests on the outstanding performances from James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan (GAME NIGHT, 2018). They don’t simply break the fourth wall, they outright obliterate it. These two characters, whose names we never learn, talk directly to us viewers at least as often as they do to each other. The story begins in March 2020 on the first day of COVID quarantine, and carries through for a full year. As we open, the relationship has admittedly run its course, though as the days go by, circumstances can change things. The two are joined in the house by 10 year old son Artie (Samuel Logan), who spends an inordinate amount of time hovering in the background, hearing the two adults say things he shouldn’t hear. They appear to devote very little time to the boy’s stress … although their own feelings are front and center.

It’s a bit off-putting at first as we adjust to the couple speaking directly to us. On top of that, the sharing of personal information and the overlapping dialogue of their caustic exchanges meant to hurt, make this feel a bit like we are intruding. But the conversations are so relatable since we’ve all experienced the uncertainty and frustration wrought by the pandemic. In a short amount of time, we understand these two. He shares the story of his early confrontation with a grocery clerk over his son’s food choices, while she explains the guilt associated with an ailing elderly mother during a lockdown. Their “mushroom” story is certainly one for the ages, and again, provides much insight into these two people of distinctly opposite political spectrums.

Daldry and Martin filmed this in just 10 days, and with the entire piece taking place on the lower level of the couple’s flat, the film has a definite stage feel – accentuated by the long takes and aura of live performances. The dialogue stands in for action, and Ms. Horgan’s explanation of the reality of “exponential growth” in regards to COVID is one of the most stunning math classes you’ll attend. This is a case study of personalities and the relationship effects of a pandemic, and it is infused with enough dark comedy to keep it entertaining, rather than depressing. Some similarities exist to the SXSW film THE END OF US, though this one is quite a different viewing experience.

Bleeker Street is releasing TOGETHER in theaters on 8/27/21 and digitally on 9/14/21

WATCH THE TRAILER


EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE

January 22, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. Ten years since the September 11 attack, and it’s still difficult to talk about, write about, or make a movie about … and certainly difficult to critique any of those attempts. Since I haven’t read the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer (who also wrote “Everything is Illuminated”), my comments will be related only to this film directed by Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader) and the script by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

Two positive things stand out for me in the film. Young Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell is an interesting and talented newcomer, and someone I enjoyed watching on screen for most of two hours. Approximately 70 years his senior, Max von Sydow is captivating as the speechless “Renter” from Oskar’s grandmother’s apartment. The two are quite an entertaining pairing on their road-trip through NYC.

 The basic story is that Oskar’s father (Tom Hanks) is one of the victims of the WTC attacks. Through flashbacks we see that he was a world-class father to Oskar, who may very well be inflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome. Either way, Oskar is intelligent way beyond his years and possesses quite a curious and analytical mind. When his father dies, Oskar is convinced he can make sense of things by finding the lock that fits a key he found in his father’s closet. He assumes it’s another puzzle his father laid out for him with the only clue being “Black” written on the envelope.

While it is interesting to see how Oskar organizes his mission of contacting the 472 Black’s noted in the NYC phone book, it seems mostly a writing trick to get this unusual youngster mingling with “normal” citizens. When he teams with von Sydow, the energy level picks up, but we can still feel the wheels turning on the machinery to create tear-inducing moments. These moments are EVERYWHERE and include Oskar being oblivious to his hurtful ways with his mom (Sandra Bullock).

 The support work is excellent and includes John Goodman, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright. Young Mr. Horn is best known for his winning Jeopardy during “Kid’s Week”, so he is obviously real-life smart as well as on screen talented. This story is just too preposterous to take seriously. How many parents would let their 11 year old wander the streets of NYC? What reaction would this kid receive as he confronts strangers while jingling his tambourine so as to calm his nerves? Just too much melodramatic storybook stretching to make this a story worth telling in regards to the September 11 events. However, if you are need of a few good cries, this one tees it up for you.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you want to see an exciting newcomer in Thomas Horn OR it’s just been too long since you had a good cry (or 3 or 4)

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you prefer movie/story manipulations not be quite so obvious

watch the trailer: