Together, Together Movie Review & Surrogacy in Real Life
Films about surrogacy are few and far between, and the few that exist tend to forsake reality in favor of dramatic entertainment. One of the best examples of this is Baby Mama, which provided some of the most over-the-top and unrealistic surrogacy storylines that we have ever seen.
Earlier this year, a new film called Together, Together came out that offered a more low-key glimpse into surrogacy. Directed and written by Nikole Beckwith, and starring Ed Helms and Patti Harrison, the film uses surrogacy as the primary driving force behind the plot. However, the story’s real intention is to explore a unique and modern friendship.
Together, Together has some undeniably heartfelt moments throughout, and in some cases, a few morsels of accuracy. However, overall, the film does not represent a realistic surrogacy arrangement whatsoever. Let’s dive in. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
The story is about a single man who chooses to become a father through surrogacy and the surrogate who carries his child. This is refreshing to see in a film, since most surrogacy stories revolve around heterosexual couples, same-sex male couples, or single women. Ed Helms plays 40-something Matt, a successful app developer. Patti Harrison plays 26-year-old Anna, a single woman living on her own who had a baby as a teenager that she gave away for adoption.
While Anna is very likable and levelheaded, it’s unlikely that someone in her situation would be considered a candidate for surrogacy in real life. Surrogates are often required to be raising at least one child that they have given birth to. This requirement is in place to ensure that the surrogate will understand her role in the process. It also protects surrogate candidates from experiencing emotional suffering during pregnancy and post-partum.
Furthermore, Anna’s social situation is less than ideal for a surrogate candidate. She is a loner, with an estranged family and very few friends. Within her limited social circle, we only see her interact with two people: a co-worker and, briefly, an intimate partner. In real life, surrogate candidates must have a strong support system to be accepted as surrogates. While surrogacy is an amazing experience, it’s not without its challenges; surrogates need strong familial and/or social ties to lean on during these times.
The story begins with Matt interviewing Anna to become his surrogate. From the first few questions, it seems more like an awkward job interview, with Matt asking questions like, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” Initially, it seems like Matt is seeking a surrogate without the help of a surrogacy agency, although the exact nature of how Matt and Anna find each other is never discussed. There are some clues throughout the film that suggest that they are indeed working with a surrogacy agency, but it is never explicitly stated out loud.
Assuming that they are working with a surrogacy agency, there are already issues with the accuracy of the film’s portrayal of surrogacy within just the first few minutes. For example, such an interview would not take place between the surrogate and intended parents alone. In real life, this meeting would be carefully coordinated and moderated by a caseworker.
Furthermore, questions such as, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” are unlikely to be discussed. The purpose of this initial conversation is to discuss the most basic and essential parameters of a surrogacy arrangement, such as communication, whether the surrogate is willing to carry multiple fetuses, or what their views are on pregnancy reduction and termination.
The First Trimester
Following the interview, the film immediately transitions to the first trimester, where we learn that, after three tries, Anna is finally pregnant. We get a quick glimpse into the lack of support that single fathers sometime face when pursuing surrogacy, as Matt excitedly shares the news with his family only to be met with ambivalence.
For most of the first act, Matt’s sense of boundaries, when it comes to Anna, is hazy. For example, he shows up at her work and her apartment unexpectedly to give her pregnancy tea and wide-width shoes. He means well but his actions come across as intrusive. This becomes especially apparent when Matt finds out that Anna has had casual sex with another man and insists that she’s contractually not allowed to do that.
In real life, details about the mode and frequency of communication would be defined early in the surrogacy arrangement. Often the favored form of communication for both the surrogate and the intended parent(s) is identified and adhered to by all parties. Showing up unannounced at a surrogate’s home or workplace would be highly unusual. Frequently surrogates and intended parents do not live so close to each other that they are in the same city, state, or even country. Just stopping by would not be something that would be done on a whim.
As for sex during surrogacy, the reality is a little more complicated than the film makes it seem. In real life, surrogates are instructed to abstain from intercourse while trying to conceive, which the film does acknowledge. However, once a surrogate is pregnant, she is generally allowed in the contract to have sex, so long as it is practiced safely and does not put the baby in jeopardy (e.g. putting the baby at risk for being exposed to a sexually transmitted disease). If she is single, she would be required to introduce her partner to her agency and the parents, and the new partner would be required to have infectious disease screening prior to their being intimate. Casual hookups, such as the one that Anna has, would be prohibited. A previously established sexually intimate partner would have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases along with the surrogate before an embryo was transferred into her uterus.
The Second Trimester
During the second trimester, the film starts to explore the deepening friendship developing between Matt and Anna. This portion of the movie includes several sweet moments between them, including:
- Choosing colors for Matt’s nursery
- Going shopping for maternity clothes and a crib
- Watching Friends together
- Feeling the baby move inside Anna’s belly
It’s clear that Matt and Anna have a strong bond forming, however, it’s highly irregular for a surrogacy arrangement in real life. For one thing, Matt asks Anna to move in with him because he wants to be more involved with the pregnancy. While she doesn’t fully move in with him, she does start sleeping over at his house frequently. This would never happen in a real surrogacy arrangement. Although intended parents and surrogates can become exceptionally close, it’s still important that they maintain boundaries during the process.
Throughout the second act, multiple people mistake Matt and Anna for a couple, which serves as a commentary on social attitudes towards platonic friendships between men and women, as well as single people. Although the film does its best to insist that their relationship is purely platonic, there are several moments that blur the line. Regardless, their relationship isn’t very appropriate for a surrogate and intended parent and would likely not happen in a real arrangement.
Things come to a head when Matt organizes a baby shower at his home and invites Anna. Because Anna has no family or support system, the only people in attendance are Matt’s friends and family. While Matt is showered with attention and gifts, the guests are extremely rude and insensitive towards Anna. Some of them don’t address her as a person and instead speak only to her belly. One person even compares Anna to an organ donor.
In real life, intended parents sometimes do invite their surrogates to participate in a baby shower. However, most of the time, people aren’t so thoughtless or needlessly cruel to treat the surrogate in such a poor manner. After all, the surrogate is doing something amazing for the intended parents and deserves to be treated with respect. While everyone’s social compass is different, it’s unusual that intended parents would allow such behavior and comments to go uncorrected.
Following the baby shower, Anna is understandably upset and decides that she and Matt need to have stronger, more defined, boundaries. She says that they are spending too much time together and that he is the only person that she spends time with. Matt is upset but respects Anna’s choice.
The Third Trimester & Delivery
The final lap of the film is much more somber in tone. Matt and Anna are going through the motions of their daily routines separately and only see each other for doctor’s appointments. The conversations between them have shifted from being friendly to clinical. Although the film portrays this in a dramatically sad way, it’s actually a little closer to the reality of surrogacy. In many arrangements, intended parents only see their surrogate in person during doctor’s appointments. It’s also common for intended parents and surrogates to discuss clinical matters, albeit in less uncomfortable circumstances.
Later, Matt and Anna attend a birthing class with a doula, which starts to break a crack in the wall they’ve built between themselves. During a “words of encouragement” exercise, Matt tells Anna how amazing she is, which seems to bridge the emotional gap between them. From there, they resume their friendship as it was, with Anna regularly sleeping at Matt’s house. At some point, Anna tells him that she loves him “in a boring way” and that she doesn’t want to lose his friendship. Matt promises that their friendship will remain intact.
The film then rushes through Anna’s labor and delivery. Matt is, of course, very involved in this process, and does all the things that an excited father-to-be would do. This part is somewhat realistic. However, as Matt happily welcomes his new baby into the world, the camera focuses on the pained, tearful expression on Anna’s face before fading to black. The credits roll.
Perhaps this ambiguous ending was an attempt to capture the mix of emotions that surrogates can experience after giving birth. It’s impossible to say. Judging from the themes of the film, it’s more likely that this final shot is about Anna’s sadness and anxiety about no longer being Matt’s surrogate/friend, which is not a typical reaction that surrogates have in real life.
Unlike Baby Mama, which is very obviously a comedy that is not meant to be taken as fact, the tone of Together, Together is designed to feel like a more realistic portrayal of surrogacy, which is a little problematic. The film gets a couple of things sort of right, but overall is a poor representation of surrogacy relationships.
It’s kind of sad that filmmakers don’t showcase the reality of surrogacy on its own merits. Surrogacy in the real world is a beautiful experience that doesn’t need fictionalization to make it compelling. The bonds that are formed from surrogacy in real life are far more powerful than many of the relationships seen in these films. If you want to learn more about real surrogacy, we encourage you to contact us – we love sharing our real-life stories!