Film & Television

‘Modern Love’:
From The New York Times to Amazon Prime

With “At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity,” Modern Love‘s fifth episode, we return to the fruits and foibles of young love. John Gallagher, Jr. plays a bit of a geek who can’t quite believe his luck when gorgeous and sexy Sofia Boutella comes home with him. However, after a bit of clumsy foreplay, he falls and severely cuts his arm on a broken wine glass, necessitating a trip to the hospital, emergency surgery, drugs, and a healthy dose of soul-searching. A memorable, if not exactly satisfying, first night together.

The sixth episode, “So He Looked Like Dad, It Was Just Dinner, Right?” handles some potentially creepy material with a light touch. Julia Garner (Lily Tomlin’s young costar in Grandma) develops a fascination with an older coworker, Shea Whigham. But what she sees as a platonic father-daughter relationship (she lost her own father at age eleven), he sees as a May-September romance.

“Hers Was a World of One” is the only episode that features a same-sex romance, in this case a marriage between Brandon Kyle Goodman and Andrew Scott. They decide to adopt a baby and welcome unconventional unwed mother Olivia Cooke into their lives. Cooke is homeless by choice, an idealistic drifter who wants what’s best for her baby — even if that means shaking up Goodman and Scott’s picture-perfect life.

The final episode, “The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap,” stars Oscar nominee Jane Alexander and James Saito (in real life, fifteen years her junior) as widowed retirees. Their second chapter is cut short by Saito’s death and a good portion of the episode is Alexander formally and informally eulogizing him. After his funeral, she decides to walk, then runs through the city as rain begins to fall. Her impromptu race intersects with all of the characters we’ve met in previous episodes, confirming that where love is concerned, it takes a village (even if that village has nine million people). It’s also evocative of the final airport scene in Love Actually. A bit corny, yes, but likely to make you smile.

Like Love Actually, Modern Love examines l’amour from various angles, and not always romantic ones. Friends sometimes succeed where would-be lovers fail. Family takes different shapes. Even self-acceptance is presented as a sort of — a very important sort of — love. The stories are engaging and well written; they’re also thoroughly believable. The cast is simply tremendous, without exception. And with each episode just half an hour long, you can binge (as I tend to do) or spread the series out over several days, prolonging all that romance.

Modern Love is a particularly intelligent and mature series (not really surprising, given its prestigious roots). And, with a decade and a half of essays to choose from, it can be extended for many seasons to come. 

Something to look forward to — whether you’re a native New Yorker or not.


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