Seeing a movie about the Covid lockdown while we're still dealing with Covid may sound about as appealing as listening to an anti-vaxxer rant about “freedom” for two hours. Together is actually kind of cathartic, though. The story is a relatively simple tale examining the toll being locked down during a global pandemic takes on one particular couple. Sharp dialogue and exceptional performances make it relatable, ultimately serving as a reminder that we've gotten through this ordeal so far, and the reason we have is because we're in the same boat as all the people we love.

The nameless couple (James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan) isn't necessarily getting along well to begin with. He thinks she's annoying and judgmental. She describes him as having “the same level of charm as diarrhea in a pint glass.” The movie opens with them settling in for the first day of Covid-19 related lockdown, dreading the idea of being stuck in the house together. (Their 10-year-old son is perpetually in the living room, playing video games.) We, meanwhile, are placed in the role of a guest in their home. The characters speak more to us than to each other. More specifically, they complain to us about each other. Every so often, the film jumps a month ahead – indicating how many British citizens have died from Covid – to show how cabin fever has only exacerbated the tensions between them.

Then some things change. Her mother goes into a nursing home. That, of course, creates a lot of worry for obvious reasons. Later, there's the hope of a vaccine. These factors, for better or worse, begin to shape the relationship between the couple. Going through highs and lows as a unit makes them realize that facing Covid alone would arguably be worse than facing it with someone they've grown to dislike. To the extent that Together has an overt message, it's that facing something like this pandemic can help all of us get our priorities straighter. A silver lining is in there, difficult as it is to believe.

Together has a staginess that can be intermittently stifling. It really is just two people in a single location, talking. That, combined with the frequent bickering, means you have to prepare yourself to get on the movie's wavelength. If you do, there's great pleasure in Dennis Kelly's dialogue, which alternates between stingingly funny and gut-wrenchingly poignant. His observations of how couples feud, come together, and do everything in between is right on point. When your movie is all talk, the things people say have to be sufficiently engaging. Kelly makes sure that the feelings his characters express hold our attention.

The best part of the film is the work from McAvoy and Horgan. Both actors tear through the dialogue, imbuing it with real meaning. Under their care, it becomes understandable how this man and woman grew tired of one another. Their dysfunctions come across loud and clear. But the stars also make it apparent that there's a connection still there. What they create is powerful. Individually, Horgan illustrates how her character's anger is often borne out of fear, while McAvoy delivers a lengthy monologue explaining “exponential growth” (i.e. how something like Covid rages out of control) that is heartbreaking in how it destroys the guy he's portraying.

Two commanding performances and an observant screenplay combine to make Together a compelling snapshot of our current time. Smoothly directed by Stephen Daldry, it manages to smartly address all-too-timely issues without sacrificing entertainment value.

out of four

Together is rated R for language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.