Together is a bold, sobering and addicting drama that begins March 24, 2020, the first night of lockdown in London during the COVID-19 pandemic. It ends the following March, when England’s vaccination program appears to have stopped the spread of the virus and the city reopens.
The main characters are referred to as He (James McAvoy) and She (Sharon Horgan). They are an unmarried upper-middle-class couple who have lived unhappily together for years. The only glue in their relationship seems to be their 10-year-old son (Samuel Logan). In the opening scenes, they unpack groceries and complain about how difficult it will be to sit together in a confined space during the lockdown.
Director Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot) and screenwriter Dennis Kelly reveal how COVID safety protocols highlight this couple’s anger, depression, resentment and guilt. They snoop on each other’s work – she’s a refugee agency executive and he runs a successful computer consultancy – and claim they haven’t made love in years. In fact, they remember an excursion into their relationship after about three years when he got very sick from eating poisonous mushrooms, and they take the honor of gathering the mushrooms to harm the other.
If there is one area that has been hardest hit by illness, isolation, fear, and fear of the pandemic, it is our relationships, and as the months go by, so does him and her. They speak directly to the camera and tell of important events – their mother’s death from COVID all by herself, then her funeral, which only five people were allowed to attend. Still, with no strangers to speak to, no flowers or catering, there was nothing to distract them from their grief, and they found that helpful.
Other events triggered it. In a lengthy monologue, she blames the government for acting as the virus spread, accusing her of murdering her mother and other care facility residents. In his own monologue, he scolds a man without a mask who got too close to a grocer.
We see the lock kick in the emotional pot as this couple goes through a variety of emotions, 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 when we watch them we realize that this is true during pandemic times in general. But despite all the dark moods, we can see some signs of change.
At some point she and he will discuss whether they want things to be the way they were before the pandemic. As you watch them, you will find that you are asking the same question.
“How do we react to a world that seems out of control? The world seems like this because it’s out of control – the sun rises whether we like it or not, the toaster breaks, someone cuts you off on the way to work. We were never in control. We have the illusion of control when things go the way we see fit. And if not, we say we have lost control and are longing for some kind of enlightened state beyond everything here, where we imagine we are in control again. But what we really want is peace. “
– Byron Katie in a thousand names for joy