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‘Modern Love’ Is Heartbreaking and Satisfying in Equal Parts

Modern Love is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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Anne Hathaway stars in this anthology of stories.
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I’ve always grown up watching love stories that I couldn’t relate to because they always had either a happy ending or one that was tragic. Not surprising because I grew up on a steady diet of Bollywood. What I longed for, was something relatable where relationships were messy, grey, happy - a multitude of things because that’s what life is like.

The show is based on the popular New York Times column by the same name, and subsequently a podcast as well.

As I finished the first season of Amazon Prime’s Modern Love, I felt a strange sense of satisfaction. Here was an anthology of love stories that were heartbreaking and sweet in equal parts. Some love stories don’t turn out to be the most ideal, but the characters move on, because eventually life goes on. When I heard the title I thought it would be about people falling in love in the time of Tinder maybe, or like your regular heterosexual love stories. But Modern Love is about the various forms of love that you probably wouldn’t even recognise as a ‘love story’. It’s complex, sometimes even polarising and that’s exactly what makes the series a good watch.

The show is based on the popular New York Times column by the same name, and subsequently a podcast as well.

In another episode, the reality of a marriage is explored; of how things often begin to fizzle out after many years of being with your partner.

The 30 minute long episodes are standalone experiences so it’s not something you need to binge on, but just quietly enjoy.

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In Modern Love, all kinds of love are explored. For example, one of the episodes follows the story of a book reviewer living in an old rent-controlled apartment finds a father figure in her doorman. The story, I felt like, had subtle undercurrents of attraction between the two leading characters. And I kept it to unfold in a direction where the two fall in love, and that’s where the show triumphs. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the filmmakers and the editor had weaved the narrative in a manner that does not quite reveal where the story is headed.

A still from the trailer of <i>Modern Love.</i>
A still from the trailer of Modern Love.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screengrab)

In another episode, the reality of a marriage is explored; of how things often begin to fizzle out after many years of being with your partner. Starring Tina Fey and John Slattery, here’s a couple who just can’t seem to figure out how to keep the magic alive. At one point Tina Fey’s character turns to her husband, who is an actor, and says, “You’ve always kept me away from your life, away from the fun stuff because you knew I’d fit in there.”

Tina Fey and John Slattery in a still from the show.
Tina Fey and John Slattery in a still from the show.
(Photo Courtesy: Amazon Prime Video)

A lot of the drama in the episodes comes through because of the filmmaking styles that have been chosen. There’s a soft, melancholic tone to the episodes combined with some fabulous music.

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One of the best episodes for me was the one starring Anne Hathaway. It’s about a woman dealing with bipolar disorder and navigating through her life despite her mental illness. The episode stands out because of the combination of smart filmmaking and a heartfelt performance by Anne Hathaway.

Anne Hathaway plays a woman suffering from bipolar disorder on the show.
Anne Hathaway plays a woman suffering from bipolar disorder on the show.
(Photo Courtesy: Amazon Prime Video)
Mental health is a recurrent theme in the show and appears in another episode as well.

To illustrate the highs of someone who suffers from the disorder, the filmmakers make the character lip-sync songs, as if in a musical, with people in the background breaking into a dance when Hathaway’s character is bright and cheery.

But then the disorder creeps in, and the mood becomes sombre and dull; the camera becomes slow, spaces suddenly look darker. This sudden transition of the character’s mood and the theatrical style of filmmaking might seem simplistic but it totally worked for me.

Mental health is a recurrent theme in the show and appears in another episode as well. Titled ‘At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity’, where a guy on his second date, ends up in a hospital and begins talking about how he grapples with anxiety and cynicism.

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A still from the show.
A still from the show.
(Photo Courtesy: Amazon Prime Video)

The other quirky touch is the title of each episode, from ‘When The Doorman Is Your Main Man’, to ‘So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?’- which brings ‘daddy issues’ to the fore in this buffet of stories. These titles are taken directly from the column and are apt because they convey one simple truth, that romance is everywhere.

The column that inspired ‘Modern Love’ has been appearing for over fifteen years now.

It’s been a while since I truly cared for the characters I see on screen, and Modern Love makes you care because it feels ‘real’. What’s exciting is that the stories could be anyone’s - my neighbour’s, my friend’s or even yours actually.

The column that inspired Modern Love has been appearing for over fifteen years now, and surely the definition of modern has changed with time. But we’re still as complex, as messed up and as much in love...in its different forms.

(Modern Love is streaming on Amazon Prime Video currently. It has been renewed for a second season)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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