Untogether is a mood more than a movie.Through its somber score and dreamy Los Angeles lighting (easily the film’s best feature), it wants to be a companion to those lost and meandering through life. Or, rather than a companion, it wants you to follow its Instagram. It wants you to see its protagonist, the troubled-yet-gorgeous Jemima Kirke as Andrea, hair in soft curls of millennial pink, and find solace in her listlessness.
She’s a charismatic ex-junkie novelist trying to find her purpose. She’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl of her own making, whose precisely-cultivated vintage personal style always feels like a conscious decision she made in an effort to recreate herself. She struggles to create a follow-up to her mildly successful first novel because, as she puts it, she got clean. Andrea is the perfect Instagram follow: damaged enough to elicit schadenfreude and beautiful enough to envy.
But to say the film “follows” Andrea would be untrue, because Untogether crowds the focus by giving equal screen time to three other characters that should be supporting, thus undermining Andrea’s role and robbing the film of a solid center around which its plot can revolve. Nick (Jamie Dornan), the doctor-turned-writer with whom Andrea has an ongoing casual sexual relationship, suffers a James Frye-like fallout after it’s discovered that he’s fabricated pieces of his memoir. Andrea’s sister, Tara (Lola Kirke), wades through daddy issues while attempting to (somehow both earnestly and haphazardly) reclaim her Jewish roots. Tara’s boyfriend, Martin (Ben Mendelsohn), is a washed-up musician desperately trying to cling to his ever-distant, much younger girlfriend.
Untogether’s characters have everything and nothing to do with each other. Their respective journeys only have desperation in common, and their penchant for codependence doesn’t make them relatable more than it just makes them unlikable. While it’s true that unlikable characters can be watchable, their unlikability needs to have some consequence. Untogether’s goal is to show people who embody its title overcome their largely self-made obstacles, but the end result is about as unsubtle as the metaphor involving Andrea’s cat’s urethra. (The vet tells Andrea, “If he keeps licking the wound it won’t heal properly.”)
The effort to overload the plot with characters of questionable merit given too much to do feels like an attempt at more widespread relatability; that more viewers can find themselves in the story if there are more characters to use as a mirror. But not only do some characters do so little for the story that they retract from it (Nick, specifically, is wholly unnecessary), Untogether is so crowded it ends up feeling more like one of those Garry Marshall mega-cast romcoms (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve, et. al.). There are too many characters and too many problems to parse our attention, let alone our empathy.
Untogether is released February 8, 2019.