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Movie review: 'Together Together' a poignant story about being alone in a world of togetherness

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When Matt (Ed Helms) interviews Anna (Patti Harrison) to be his gestational surrogate, she has to reveal a few intimate details: she’s not close to her family, and she had a baby as a teenager that she gave up for adoption. But she says something else that’s even more revealing of the main thesis for Nikole Beckwith’s sensitive surrogacy dramedy, “Together Together.”

Anna attempts to impart why she wants to serve as a surrogate for Matt, a single, straight man in his 40s: “I know it’s not the best thing in the world, being alone,” she says. “Not that you are alone. But you are doing this alone.”

This question of being alone in a world of togetherness, and what that looks like, and what it means, is the poignant underpinning of “Together Together,” which imagines the nontraditional ways that the loners of this world can be alone, together.

When it comes to the pregnancy, for Anna it’s a gig, a means to an end, a way to pay for her long-delayed college degree. For Matt, it’s his dream for a family that he’s determined to realize, and determined to experience for himself. That clash of expectations is the initial conflict between Matt and Anna, as they explore what “pro-choice” means in this scenario. When it comes to pregnancy, there is not just the one choice, but a plethora of decisions to make, from what Anna consumes (and whether Matt has a say in that), to what color Matt paints the nursery (and whether Anna even wants a say in that).

As they navigate this series of choices together, Matt and Anna unexpectedly become friends, which adds an additional layer of complication to an already complex relationship. For two seemingly friendless people in what is an essentially transactional relationship, could they be friends, and furthermore, should they be?

It’s this central relationship in the film that keeps it real, and worthwhile. Helms has a talent for finding the humanity in nerdy busybody types, and he brings vulnerability and earnestness to Matt. Harrison is known for her more outre comedy stylings and comic relief supporting roles in shows like Hulu’s “Shrill,” and in her first leading role, which requires more of a dramatic performance, she shines. Harrison is simply luminous as a leading lady, seeming to glow from within, and her lived-in dry wit and subtle humor make Anna feel real and grounded. You believe in their unique friendship, which persists against all odds.

The film’s gentle rhythms are perhaps a bit too languid, the piano-based score a tad treacly. But supporting actors like Julio Torres as Anna’s co-worker, Sufe Bradshaw as the sonogram tech, and Anna Konkle as a hippie birth coach all inject much-needed doses of weird for the main duo to bounce off of.

Beckwith’s script doesn’t leave much to the imagination, without any unspoken feelings or subtext. But it’s refreshing, and authentic to the relationship Matt and Anna have. As strangers thrown into the intimate process of bringing new life into the world, their friendship becomes a safe space to ask and honestly answer: “Why are you alone?” What’s perhaps more radical, Beckwith’s film never condemns going it alone. Rather, it finds the hopefulness in what society might deem hopeless, reminding us to go after what we want, while savoring togetherness, in any form it takes, along the way.

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‘TOGETHER TOGETHER’

3 stars (out of 4)

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Rated: R (for some sexual references and language)

Playing: In theaters now; on digital May 11.

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