John Carney anthology series returns for second season of love stories based on the eponymous New York Times column. Personal Essays tell various unconventional and unlikely love stories – a nocturnal woman falling in love with a “day man,” a couple whose spouses have cheated on them into wondering if they themselves could share a spark, and a woman who can’t bear to part with her broken down car.
This season of Modern love takes viewers outside of New York a handful of times to places like Dublin and London. The overall vibe is reminiscent of the first season – witty, charming and full of love. But the stories are arguably even less conventional and sometimes seem incomplete. Some episodes are exceptional and emotionally involving, while others feel disjointed and flat.
8 “A life project for two, followed by”
The weakest episode in the series takes place over the longest period of time and maybe tries to do too much in its short duration. The story begins when protagonist Lil is 12 and student president Vincent defends her in the cafeteria. This encounter begins a lasting friendship that continues into adulthood. As it turns out, the characters aren’t particularly likable – besides leading her with romantic dances and picnics overlooking the Manhattan skyline, Vincent seduces her during their college days and then the ghost afterwards.
The plot explores the romantic comedy clichÃ© “keeping things casual while being secretly in love”, but audiences don’t exactly want them to be in love. Ultimately, Lil’s true love isn’t Vincent; it’s standing comedy. It was there for her more than Vincent ever was and if that is the message of the episode, then it somewhat redeems the faulty central relationship between the two protagonists.
7 “In the waiting room of the separated spouses”
When a sailor returns from Afghanistan and learns that his wife has cheated on him, he begins to see the same therapist as Isabelle, “the wife of the guy my wife is having an affair with.” She is now raising her baby on her own and needs a “teammate”. Meanwhile, Spence feels directionless and wants someone to love and care for him. They quickly develop a connection and bond around their common situation.
The episode highlights the inconvenience of cheating but does not dwell on it as the characters quickly come out of their trauma. “We’re not them; at least we have that,” Isabelle told him at one point. The story is about Spence and Isabelle – two kind, generous people who are not defined by how their previous relationships ended and who improve each other’s lives. It’s one of the weaker episodes, but it still has an interesting premise that’s worth watching.
6 “Am I …? Maybe this trivia game will tell me”
Episode 5 is about coming-of-age school films such as Eigth year. When the teenage protagonist has a crush on another schoolgirl, she tries to come to terms with her own sexuality while dealing with the pressures typical of school and family. All the while, the only thing she wants to do is hang out with the person who makes her the happiest.
The strength of the episode comes from its main character. For one thing, she’s a refreshingly honest teenager with an addiction to her phone. The joy she shows when her crush gives her a gif of a dolphin is utterly endearing and makes her, and the story of the episode, ultimately accessible to the public.
5 “How do you remember me?”
The penultimate installment of the series takes place over approximately 2-3 minutes in real time, with flashbacks filling in the gaps. As two men walk towards each other on a New York City street, they realize that they’ve already spent a fleeting but meaningful night together. The episode then shows viewers their contrasting perspectives on the night, as they both remember it quite differently.
Modern love Almost redefines what constitutes a “typical” love story with this episode. It’s one of the more unconventional episodes, but it raises questions about how audiences see themselves and how everyone sees the world differently. It is moving, moving and poignant. In the end, each of them is content with a look back over his shoulder and a smile to the other.
4 “The girl of the night finds a boy of the day”
When viewers first meet the âNight Girl,â she is dry and distant as the âDay Boyâ chats with her in a restaurant. In the end, she agrees to go out with him, but her narration tells the audience that “the moon was her sun” – she sets at 8 am and wakes up at 5 pm. The daytime boy is initially turned on by his situation and his late nights are manageable at first, but as their love life develops it gets harder and harder.
The characters are charming, the music is superb, and while the plot basically boils down to two people on different times struggling to arrange a date, it’s still strangely moving. Like some of the best TV series and movies set in New York City, the Big Apple’s nighttime setting also offers nostalgic, eye-pleasing visuals, such as neon neon signs from diners and dawn skies by the riverside.
3 “Second embrace, with the heart and eyes open”
This episode looks like a Richard Curtis Christmas romantic comedy in thirty-two minutes. It’s set in the kind of London you see from the window of a passing bus – upscale, well-off and self-explanatory residents. The plot follows a estranged husband and wife who rediscover their love for each other – or at least realize it’s never gone – after the wife is diagnosed with cancer.
The husband steps up during the tough times and shows himself to be mature and capable with their two daughters – from making them homemade pizza to being a professional bedtime story reader. He makes a few blunders along the way, like proposing the night she tells him about her diagnosis, but ultimately the fact that he’s there for her convinces her to take him back. And it has one of the happiest endings in the series. It’s also the last episode, so it’s a solid ending for the series as a whole.
2 “Foreigners on a train (Dublin)”
At the start of the pandemic, an intellectual technophobe and a hip techie have a delightful romantic encounter on a train from Galway to Dublin, Ireland. They quickly fall in love with each other and meet on the first train to Galway after the two-week temporary lockdown. Trusting each other and the power of love, they decide not to exchange contact details. Two weeks later, the lockdown has been extended and their chance to love is foiled.
This is the episode where Modern love takes himself the least seriously. This is illustrated when the crazy, romantic acoustic guitar music that marks their conversation on the train turns out to be emitted by a man sitting behind them, and when a character refers Game Of Thrones (the technician is played by Jon Snow actor Kit Harrington). The episode’s tongue-in-cheek style and recognition of rom-com tropes is refreshing and fun, making it one of the best episodes.
1 “On a winding road, with the top down”
The show’s opening and strongest episode take place in Ireland and follow Minnie Driver as the woman whose partner forces her to sell her beloved vintage sports car. Although the car constantly breaks down, the public quickly learns that it belonged to her late husband – this is the only place where she can speak to him freely and still feel his presence. Through flashbacks, the audience sees his many happy memories, such as picking up a Christmas tree. When Driver’s character reveals the truth to his current partner, he surprises her by buying the car back from its new owner.
This is the best episode in the series due to the panoramic shots of atmospheric Irish landscapes enhanced by Van Morrison playing on the soundtrack. More importantly, the episode excels in how it approaches grief and loss with honesty and lack of feeling, and the idea of ââa shared love that isn’t sweet. The rest of the season doesn’t reach those emotional highs again.
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