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Baby Mama Drama

Tiffany Roohani/Sundance Institute

Together Together (2021)

It is not a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a child. And yet Matt (Ed Helms) can’t help himself. He is the 40-something creator of a successful dating app which has given him the fortune to purchase not only the egg from an unnamed donor, but also the services of a surrogate. He chooses 26-year-old Anna (Patti Harrison) for reasons that shortly become clear: She is the only person in San Francisco lonelier than him.

Pretty much only Mr. Helms could have carried off the part. He’s utterly believable as a sad sack who has had great financial success but none whatsoever on the romantic front, and going to all the trouble of arranging the surrogacy is obviously easier than making a baby the old-fashioned way. There are clearly class and control issues at play here – perhaps more obvious to non-American audiences, as America is one of the few countries in the world that allows payment for surrogacies – but writer-director Nikole Beckwith smartly downplays these, not least because Anna really needs the money to get the life she wants. She’s eligible to be a surrogate because of a gloomy story, but Ms. Harrison’s calm tone and relaxed body language make it crystal clear her past is behind her. But it’s lonely going through big life choices so young. Her only friend, a dopey fellow barista named Jules (Julio Torres), lives in an exhausting carousel of high-drama romantic entanglements, while Anna eats cereal alone in her efficiency apartment and dreams of being a mature student. Meanwhile Matt is rattling around a beautiful house with a nursery he can’t decide what color to paint. The workaday cinematography by Frank Barrera gets the job done, and the clean middle-class look of the film goes a long way to reassure everyone that there’s nothing troubling or problematic here. So while it’s kind of weird that Anna and Matt start slowly hanging out, their mutual awkwardness quickly shifts into a genuine friendship.

The movie forces this by having Matt drag Anna to regular sessions with a couple’s counsellor (Tig Notaro), but it’s a forgivable cinematic cheat. It’s less forgivable that all the medical professionals in the movie are women, but the only one with a name is the doula whose childbirth classes focus on Matt’s emotional experiences instead of Anna’s physical ones. It’s a rare movie than can be about a pregnancy without being about motherhood, but Ms. Beckwith clearly wanted to do something new. That she certainly has.


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