The second season of the web series Modern Love travels beyond its original New York City setting to find that sappy romance isn’t the preserve of the Big Apple.
John Crowley’s show for Amazon Prime Video is based on real-life accounts from the New York Times column of the same name. Some of the eight chapters in the new season also draw on personal essays.
The resolutely old-fashioned and simplistic quality of most of the stories assures that the series is never as modern as it threatens to be. Inter-racial couples and same-sex lovers grapple with inner conflicts and mutual differences rather than social pressures or discrimination.
The highlight of the second season is once again the diverse set of actors, many of them cast against type and relishing the opportunity to play die-hard romantics.
In the most compelling episode Second Embrace, With Hearts and Eyes Open, the divorced Elizabeth and Van rekindle their relationship and realise that they are having more fun than when they were officially together. The post-divorce Van is an improved parent to their two adorable daughters and a better lover too. Sophie Okonedo and Tobias Menzies are superb together, and rank as the show’s best couple.
Kit Harington stakes his claim as a romantic hero in Strangers on a Train. Michael (Harington) encounters Paula (Lucy Boynton) on a train heading to Dublin. They pledge to meet again two weeks later, reasoning that the lockdown caused by this new virus won’t last. If only they knew…
Two references to Game of Thrones, which made Harington a global star, suggest that while the actor has moved on, the rest of the world hasn’t. It’s time they did: the camera-friendly Harington is clearly ripe for an image change.
Dublin is also the setting for a moving exploration of grief and nostalgia. On a Serpentine Road, With the Top Down is about the many loves of Stephanie (Minnie Driver): she is attached to her vintage car, the memory of her late husband (Tom Burke), and a life filled with warmth and happiness. No wonder she finds it so hard to sell the automobile even though it is draining her bank account.
In Am I…? Maybe This Quiz Will Tell Me, a teenager explores her sexuality. In How Do You Remember Me?, two men revisit their one and only date from their own perspectives. A Life Plan For Two, Followed By One wonders whether BFFs can graduate into life partners.
In The Waiting Room of Estranged Strangers offers a variation on In the Mood for Love. Spence’s wife has left him for Isabelle’s husband. Spence (Garett Hedlund) and Isabelle (Anna Paquin) form a bond whose depth and complexity cannot be contained in the film’s limited duration.
The short film format suits the concerns of The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy just fine. Zoe (Zoe Chao) has delayed sleep phase syndrome, which means that she is wide awake when the rest of the world is in the arms of Morpheus.
Jordan (Gbenga Akinnagbe) seems like the perfect guy, but they have to work out a meeting point between night and day, her moonlight and his sunshine. The sweet chemistry between the actors and the crisp storytelling ensures that this modern love story finds the age-old ending it deserves.