Modern Love‘s second season is like the breath of fresh air which accompanies the realisation that magic is unexpectedly real. That sounds way too dramatic for the modest narratives, however. It’s a touching ode to the stories that get eye rolled or scoffed at because they seem too ‘fairy tale-ish’. The criticism that the stories are unrealistic without any true depth, is very ironic. The main reason is that these are based on real life stories, so it’s the literal opposite of unreal. More than that, sometimes life is just the surface. That doesn’t make it shallow, and in fact, moments gain magnitude only in retrospect, for the most part.
Firstly, On a Serpentine Road With the Top Down. It’s a powerful story about coping with loss. It quietly acknowledges that coping doesn’t necessarily mean moving on. That happens to be more true for death, in fact, and the lack of dramatisation makes the story endearing. The impact of a permanent loss can never be undone. The only way to deal with it, is to accept it as a part of life going forward. The attachment of people or memories of people with objects from our life is one of the most common phenomena, and the physical expression of grief through the car ride is truly tear-jerking. The lack of flair about the story is what’s best about it. There’s an almost conspicuous lack of drama and of resolution which sincerely mirrors reality.
Then The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy. The character design in the story is beyond fascinating. The basis of the tale, is so bizarre and unique, that the aesthetics coax investment from the viewer. Plus, the personalities of the two central characters are unexpectedly compatible. Their easy-going chemistry in the face of such a distinctly disturbing reality, is a truly rewarding watch. Things begin unravelling though, and even if the ending is as cute as it gets, this one feels a bit forced. Cheesiness is never to be shunned, and keeps people young, but practicality is essential too. The conflict was presented very maturely, but the ending lacked any true resolution, and seemed oversimplified.
Strangers on a (Dublin) Train had a lot of potential. Some of it is genuinely tapped into, but the execution is somewhat disappointing at times. Alluding to Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy gives it an appeal, but other pop culture references fail to land, especially the Game of Thrones one. However, the tale is itself rather enjoyable because this over-used premise still seems to be dealt with in a refreshing manner! The two people are so diametrically opposite, yet you can feel the endearment. Of course, the connection seems a bit too much spoken about than depicted, and things can seem over the top. However, the true romantic triumphing through that amazing ending scene which shows the start of the ultimate wait, makes it memorable.
The first thing you notice about A Life Plan For Two, But Followed By One is the incorporation of local culture to express the impact of location on a person’s story. Brooklyn is rather essential to this cute high school unrequited love story, and it’s depicted very attractively. Be it the catchy soundtrack or the visuals of the place bustling with energy and life, there is an amazing vibe in the setting. This feeling perfectly complements the story that is set in it. Again, the story isn’t particularly unique, but the intimacy and the personalisation make it interesting. The two people are incredibly vibrant and even if the events are predictable, the storytelling keeps you guessing with its last minute teasing. Plus, the emphasis on friendship at the end is a nice touch.
Am I…? Maybe This Quiz Will Tell Me quintessentially captures millennial lifestyle. It’s not aggressive in its pursuit, but the attention to detail perfectly establishes the ability of the writer to observe. The obsession with Buzzfeed quizzes, although not to be condoned much, feels extremely genuine. Plus, connecting over anime is a brilliant touch, although I gather that could have come from the real life story itself. The depiction of the inability to understand and live one’s truth is what makes the story stand out. In such a short time, it gets you emotionally invested in the life and journey of the protagonist. The warmest aspect of the story is how there was no major reveal at the end, but simply a meandering fade out, which hints at possible reconciliation of identity. This is not a story that is overtly conclusive, very much like reality.
In The Waiting Room of Estranged Spouses‘s editing is genuinely special. Coping with reality by dealing with inevitable issues in a make-believe world where they aren’t out of control, is often a common behavioural pattern amongst victims of PTSD. The war left our protagonist shaken but driven, and before he realised it, he had internalised the concept of ‘missions’. The slow but deliberate journey towards reconciling with inevitability makes the story meaningful. Plus, the halting and the unsure development of the bond is a powerful touch. The most memorable moment of the episode however, would be the pavement walk, where he basically evolves into a newer self, the transformation visualised by him dropping objects that symbolised older versions.
How Do You Remember Me? is possibly the best episode of this season. It builds on an incredibly relatable premise, and the strength of the screenplay ensures it makes a mark. We affect millions of lives, sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously, and sometimes even unawares. However, one thing is constant, and that is estrangement. And with estrangement comes the unsettling ability of memory to hold on. The common experience of a lifetime of memories resurfacing on meeting someone you were close with, but haven’t seen in a long time is a bittersweet experience. The depiction here, which also focuses on memory being an unreliable narrator, stands out. Just a glance of recognition can take you back years to a place you somehow recall vividly, but you don’t know if that’s how you remember it or if that’s what actually happened.
And finally, Second Embrace With Hearts And Eyes Open. Divorces don’t inherently end in toxicity and this story beautifully embraces that truth. Plus, the way people grow up according to their circumstances, which is a truly powerful force, plays an important role. It’s heartwarming to watch acceptance grow in a place that was until recently, occupied by resentment, no matter how mild. The notion that love can’t save you, but you can save love by working on it, isn’t uncommon. In fact, such stories aren’t rare, but I think the character design and the awkwardness of tiptoeing around children gives it a playful and energetic twist. Plus, the manner in which things don’t get magically fixed, but become open to change is the drop of reality the story needed.
Calling Modern Love a celebration of love would be perfect. It’s got exactly the kind of cheesiness that the new season tells us to accept and cherish. There’s no single combination of words to describe what it manages to achieve or doesn’t manage to. There are obvious gaps in writing of a few stories and in others, there’s missed out opportunities for the director to get even more creative, but the spark and the magic abounds. The difference from the first season is that this is caters more towards the interests of hopeless romantics. The cheesiness is obviously more, but the lack of spectacle in many of the stories is comforting. The slow but moving existence of the excitement at discovering and feeling the growth of love has been brought to the screen effectively. If you love love, you’ll love Modern Love.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.