Review: Couple experiences pandemic blues in tedious 'Together'
James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan have no shortage of chemistry, but COVID-19 lockdown drama doesn't make the most of their connection.
A quarantining couple is at each other's throats in "Together," a grating comic-drama that is as welcome as another lockdown.
James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan have plenty of chemistry together as a warring couple forced to endure the COVID-19 pandemic in their U.K. flat. But the stagey feel of director Stephen Daldry's ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "Billy Elliot") experimental film quickly wears out its welcome, and makes viewers feel trapped with two people who don't want to be with each other and revel in making others share their discomfort.
McAvoy ("Split") and Horgan (so good in "Catastrophe") are the unnamed couple who should have split a long time ago but stayed together for their son, Arthur (Samuel Logan). They're not doing him any favors. The couple constantly bickers — she compares him to "diarrhea in a pint glass" — and then turns to the camera to further elaborate to viewers at home how despicable they find one another.
This kind of storytelling device might work well on stage in a small, intimate theater, but on film it comes off as awkward and unwelcome. The one-setting staging, unfolding mostly in the couple's kitchen, is claustrophobic enough without feeling that as viewers we're stuck with them as well.
Writer Dennis Kelly gives the two characters plenty of verbose monologues, and the actors are never less than convincing. "Together" unfolds over the course of a year, from March 2020 to March 2021, and a ticker reminds viewers of the death toll (and eventually, the vaccination rates) as the months go by. There's more to the story than just them fighting; Horgan's character deals with the death of her mother and McAvoy's character comes to realize that theirs is a love that exists beyond the realm of hate. If only the same could be said for "Together."
Rated R: for language throughout
Running time: 91 minutes