When I finally got around to watching Modern Love recently, I marveled that it had not appealed to me when it first came out in October of 2019. The very thing I thought I would dislike about it—an anthology-style with short, 35-minute episodes featuring different stories and characters in each—ended up being what I relished.
In a creative partnership between Amazon Prime and The New York Times, Modern Love features eight love stories—though not all of them are romantic—based on essays in The Times’ Modern Love column. Needless to say, the writing is exquisite, if a little bit pat in its conclusions. Each episode is tied up rather neatly, although not every story ends in rainbows and sunshine.
The series has a cozy, Nora Ephron feel, as if the late director of “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail” posthumously strung twinkly lights all over her beloved New York City. (Cozy though it may be, I could not recommend it to everyone. The f-word shows up almost as often as twinkly lights, and there are a couple of sexually charged scenes but no nudity.)
Still, there is so much to love about Modern Love. The first episode, "When The Doorman Is Your Main Man," finds a young woman (Cristin Milioti) having to vet her dates through her stoic and protective doorman, Guzmin (Laurentiu Possa). In a surprisingly pro-life scenario, Guzmin is her rock when she must deal with an unexpected pregnancy. I was not surprised when I Googled “Guzmin Modern Love” and found out hordes of show fans already had. That these characters are based on real people (Guzmin is still a doorman on the Upper West Side) gives the stories extra emotional heft.
“When Cupid is a Prying Journalist” is my favorite episode. Starring Dev Patel as the CEO of a dating app (Hinge, as it turns out) and Catherine Keener as the journalist who profiles him, the episode delves into lost love and the possibility of finding it again. The journalist says, "I tossed out one last question: 'Have you ever been in love?' No one, he said, had ever asked him that in an interview. 'Yes,' he finally answered. 'But I didn't realize it until it was too late.' Then he asked me to turn off my recorder. I hit Stop." Also not surprising: Patel is nominated for an Emmy for his role here, although Keener was not. She was robbed, as were several outstanding guest actors here.
The cast is incredible. In “Rallying to Keep the Game Alive,” Tina Fey and John Slattery play a middle-aged couple struggling to save their marriage with tennis as a metaphor. Anne Hathaway brilliantly plays a bipolar woman who meets a wonderful man in the midst of a manic episode, just before she crashes. Andrew Scott plays half of a same-sex couple who enter into an adoption agreement with an erratic homeless woman. As adoptive parents, my husband and I found ourselves in this episode.
Living in a fallen world, sometimes love is complicated. It always is, actually. So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?—the episode which, judging by comments and polls online, seems to be the least liked of the series, disturbed and fascinated me. A young woman (Julia Garner) who lost her dad as a child is transfixed by a middle-aged executive at her work. They go on a date, and she sends him extremely confusing signals about what she wants from him. Her hunger for a father, so raw, so gaping, made me long for this girl to find the heavenly father who never fails.
There is no connection to faith in any of the episodes, but Modern Love offers value, not just as winsome entertainment and escape, but in its reminder that our world is pining for ageless, eternal love. It shows love in many forms—in a long-term marriage, in a hookup gone wildly wrong, in the love of a potential parent for a child growing in a stranger’s womb, and even in the love of a crusty doorman with a heart of gold. The show also displays—often achingly—the limits of human love. Seen through the eyes of faith, Modern Love makes us reflect again that only God’s love is limitless, from the beginning of time to the modern age. (Amazon Prime)