Modern Love is a refreshing look at romance, its variations and manifestations. Eight stories highlight some of the definitions associated with love:
Storge – empathy bond.
Philia – friend bond.
Eros – romantic love.
Agape – unconditional “God” love
In the Amazon Prime production, the narrator involves the viewer immediately and unlike Game of Thrones, Fleabag, When They See Us, Outlanders. and other popular shows, the mood is light, no violence. And yes, there is, of course,- turmoil for sure but the everyday situations that regular folks experience: from yearning for a dead parent, searching for romance, hoping for a baby or finding love even at an advanced age are all gleaned through upper middle class families. Well known actors such as Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Patel, Jane Seymour and Andy Garcia all contribute to the scenarios that focus on love. Without being cloying, the eight episodes are sweet but I felt, truthful.
Anyone who has lived their life has experienced the pitfalls, the highs and lows of love. When Anne Hathaway cannot bestir herself from her bed, pulling the covers over her head, we recognize the opposition in her behaviour even if we have not been diagnosed with a specific condition that can confound a life. Recalling a breakup from a relationship of two years,I reimagine myself, down and struggling, even compulsively finishing a sweater with one arm ridiculously too long and hanging, to deliver to my former love. With Hathaway, she participates, as well, but in extremes from full blown dancing in delight in the street( even if it’s in her head to illustrate her glee),beguiling as a sexy, confident Rita Hayworth, in gaudy sequins, kicking up her heels at the thought of a new boyfriend to being imprisoned in her apartment. We empathize with the thrill of meeting someone special but equally know how it feels to be unable to continue that dance of enthusiasm. Whatever the reason.
Likewise when a young woman yearns to be free in New York but falls under the watchful eye of Guzman, the doorman, a former friend of her parents, she bristles. Yet his vigilant eye and constant being there become a true comfort when she finds herself in a difficult situation. Sturdy, reliable, alert, appearing to her as judgmental, he oversees her safety, his presence enduring and trusting: one upon which she begins to rely.
Similarly Jane Seymour’s speech of contradictions in “young”versus “old” love also rings true. Observing her and her running buddy Kenji snuggle together in a warm cosy bed reinforces that even old love need not pass away. Beyond retirement, the two run, albeit slowly, in marathons, she spying him as a possible quest for a love relationship. He explains sweetly that he will never forget “ his Betty” gone six years, and she comprehends the depth, the commitment that ensues even after death: this she accepts. But as with people who have learned from their former selves, she knows how to build on compromises and gain from sympathetic support of another.
The desire to be together, make a life, enjoy the unexpected adventures or simple togetherness of, for example, meandering through the zoo are all reinforced in this series, a series that feels honest about the emotions that underline love. But even , in contrast, we view boredom that has set in on Tina Fey and Robert Slattery’s marriage and brought them to a therapist. Their routines appear mindless, their reason for staying together perhaps has run its course. She particularly experiences the angst and aloneness, her bitchiness a consequence of tedious or no real communication. It’s a relationship that appears to sit and recline in an old chair, not dance or bounce. She wants more, or to end it . All eight scenarios feature a different stage of life and what is intrinsic at each.
When Tobin explodes at the surrogate in one of final pieces in Modern Love, we understand his frustrations of harbouring a very messy house guest, even if she embodies the qualities he once yearned for in a frivolous youth. Being free, traveling wherever, rambling unbound with no restrictions comes head to head with grownup responsibilities. Yet each, the surrogate and Tobin, in this moment, demonstrate admirable qualities that bespeak what love can come to mean. Able to empathize and see from the other’s perspective, they also compromise, acknowledging but putting aside differences for the sake of preserving respect for someone else, present and future.
The final presentation in the series fills in a few gaps, gives us views of all the personages glimpsed throughout. True, no big surprises stop the viewer and make us wonder, scratching our heads. Even the lacuna, the final linkups slide away: our psyches sated, our desert ending an enjoyable meal by accomplished actors. The narratives based on stories from The New York Times are touching and realistic. They leave one hopeful, and unlike the self-centred actions with which we are confronted every day, we remember that there is love all around us, transformed by space, time and people.
The Guardian and most other reviewers report that the series is ho hum, not adding to the discourse of relationships, betrayals, mating, romance., etc. Yet maybe that is the point: that love does not change. That over time, what defines those relationships persists. And although the other reviewers found it saccharine, perhaps I am opting for the idealism that seems lost in a world of Trump, Trudeau and Brexit. When snarled in traffic, gazing on sky high condos, reading of the latest shooting or unending bullying, I’m happy to view something that lifts my spirt, knowing that the more life changes, the more some things stay the same.