– By Matthew Sawczyn –
If you’ve seen any of the advertising for Amazon’s new anthology series Modern Love, what likely first struck you was the impressive casting. Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel, Tina Fey, Sophia Boutella, John Slattery… the list of powerhouse performers who star in their own individual episode goes on. Ed Sheeran even drops by for a scene!
Modern Love is, as its title suggests, an attempt at a thorough and sweeping examination of relationships in our brave new age. Based on real submissions to the long running weekly column published by The New York Times, the series tackles dating, adoption, long lost loves, and steadfast companions in each of its stand alone episodes. What these eight hand-picked stories result in is a thoroughly warm, heartfelt portrayal of romance, marriage, and friendship in our day and age.
The series starts off with a true tearjerker, in this reviewer’s eyes the strongest episode: “When the Doorman Is Your Main Man”. Truly, if you watch nothing else, watch these thirty minutes.
Young, free spirited Maggie, played by Cristin Milioti, forms a close bond with her New York apartment building’s stoic doorman Guzmin, played by Laurentiu Possa. Their relationship is trusting and steadfast, like that of a loving uncle and niece. Guzmin gives Maggie his honest opinion of the men she brings through the door; Maggie, in turn, responds with a smirk and a verbal jab. The plot propels forward when Maggie suddenly finds herself pregnant; what follows is a story of true loyalty and friendship, as Maggie leans on a love that has always been there, watching over her.
From there, the selected stories drift a bit on the sentimental side, though never diving fully into “rom-com” territory. It helps to remind oneself with each episode that the stories are (for the most part) true, and that these tales actually did happen to real people, even as they are dramatized for the screen. That said, the show does do its best not to shy away from the messiness and reality of the contemporary scene.
Episode Six—”So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?”— is the hardest to get through, delving into a darker side of modern romance (though the lens through which this relationship is portrayed would seem to be one of disapproval and warning). The show is not flawless in its morality. Premarital sex is a given. Episode Seven centers around a gay couple, though the love in that episode is more about adoption and child-raising than romance. And divorce is the road at least one of the couples is headed towards: the hard decisions in life do not always yield ‘happy endings’.
And yet on the whole, the show finds wholeness and even holiness in its meditation on modern relationships, as we watch these true to life characters struggle and wrestle with the hands they deal for themselves, striving to make the moral choice in their love lives, as much as they may preach no set morality. This exploration on modern love is one without any preset goal or stance; and yet, as we humans so often do, these different paths find themselves subtly wandering towards the true, the right, and the beautiful.
Catholic filmmakers of today can especially look to this series as an example of how to portray the pursuit of goodness and virtue, while at all times telling a compelling and engaging narrative. Every one of us yearns to love and to be loved; it is in this that we are most human, and most divine. Ours are the stories that can tell of true connection, of true fulfillment and real love.
IMDb already has an entry for season two, so for now we may look forward to more tales and tugs at the heartstrings, sometime this coming year. Until then, in our own everyday practice of modern love, may we each ask ourselves: WWGD? What Would Guzmin Do?
About the Author
Matthew Sawczyn is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, and alumni of JPCatholic (MBA in Film Producing – Class of 2017). He loves hiking, HBO, and cuddly cats.
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