Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. They hit it off, hold hands into the sunset, get married, have kids — the whole shebang. It’s a tale that’s been recycled throughout all of time, and while it’s not entirely realistic, it doesn’t mean there’s no hope for us. As society has slowly started to realize, love takes shape in infinite forms, and “Modern Love” presents this to us in a beautiful, realistic, painful and sometimes convoluted way. The eight-episode anthology was inspired by a column in The New York Times under the same name, and portrays love stories in a light that’s true to life. Like all great anthologies, some episodes will stand out among the rest and leave you thinking for days, and some will simply disappoint. This season has a strong start and finish with not much of value in between, but a great part of the anthology format is that you can skip episodes without missing a beat.
Under a common theme of love, each episode features nuances of affection rarely seen on the big screen: The platonic love between a woman and her doorman, the ones that got away, two gay men and their adopted daughter and a bipolar woman and herself, to name a few. These episodes were some of the most impressive ones from the series, and their departures from the romance genre are just enough to provide a fresh new take, but not far enough to be cold and detached. They hit you just as hard as any cheesy love story would, but force you to think about love in a more realistic sense.
The episode featuring Anne Hathaway (“The Hustle”), in which a woman reconciles herself with the presence of her own mental illness, marks the end of a great start to the season. After that, the season takes a weird dip downward into the territory of stale acting and unrelatable plotlines. The worst and frankly creepiest episode of the season is about a young girl named Maddy (Julia Garner, “Dirty John”) with serious daddy issues. She attaches herself to Peter (Shea Whigham, “Joker”), a higher-up at her workplace who seems to be around 30 years older than her. Long story short, she begins to see him as a father figure, he thinks of her differently, mixed signals are exchanged and things get very, very weird. Maddy’s story makes you wonder whether the creators thought it was supposed to be watchable. On the bright side, the good stuff picks back up in the last two episodes of the season.
If you’re a crier, you’ll surely shed tears at the best parts of the series. It crushes you, gives you hope, rinses and repeats. With the diversity of topics the stories cover, anyone should be able to find an episode they vibe with the most and, who knows, maybe it’ll be the Daddy issues one. The anthology format makes the show a lot more watchable and digestible, and we can only hope that the show will get picked up for a second season so we can continue feeling all the things.