Together is a bold, sobering, and riveting dramady that begins on March 24, 2020, the first night of the lockdown in London during the COVID-19 pandemic. It ends the following March when England's vaccination program seems to have halted the spread of the virus and the city is opening up again.
The lead characters are referred to as He (James McAvoy) and She (Sharon Horgan). They are an upper-middle-class unmarried couple who have lived together unhappily for years. The only glue in their relationship seems to be their 10-year-old son (Samuel Logan). In the opening scenes they are unpacking groceries and bemoaning how difficult it is going to be to be stuck in close quarters together during the lockdown—.
Director Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot) and screenplay writer Dennis Kelly reveal how the COVID safety protocols draw out this couple's anger, depression, resentment, and blame. They snipe about each other's work — she is an executive for a refugee charity, and he runs a successful computer consulting business — and claim they haven't loved each other for years. In fact, they recall an excursion about three years into their relationship when he got very sick from eating poisonous mushrooms, and they each take credit for picking the mushrooms in an attempt to hurt the other.
If there is one area that has been most affected by the illness, isolation, anxiety, and fear of the pandemic, it is our relationships, and as the months pass, this is true of He and She. Speaking directly to the camera they recount significant events as they occur -- the death of her mother of COVID all alone, then her funeral with only five people allowed to attend. Still, with no strangers to speak to, no flowers or catering to arrange, there was nothing to distract them from their grief, and they found this helpful.
Other events set them off. In a long monologue, She indicts the government for their approach when the virus began to spread and charges them with murdering her mother and others living in care facilities. In his own monologue, He rants about a man not wearing a mask who got too close to a grocery store worker.
We see how the lockdown acts to stir the emotional pot as this couple goes through a wide range of feelings, from moments of deep listening and empathy to vicious verbal exchanges about what they hate about the other. Their relationship is out of control, and watching it we realize that is true of pandemic times in general. But through all the dark moods, we can see some evidence of change.
At one point He and She discuss whether they want things to go back to the way they were before the pandemic. Watching them, you will find yourself asking the same question.
"How do we respond to a world that seems out of control? The world seems that way because it is out of control — the sun rises whether we want it to or not, the toaster breaks, someone cuts you off on your way to work. We've never had control. We have the illusion of control when things go the way we think they should. And when they don't, we say we've lost control, and we long for some sort of enlightened state beyond all this, where we imagine we'll have control again. But what we really want is peace."
-- Byron Katie in A Thousand Names for Joy