Creator: Sam Boyd
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Zoe Chao, Peter Vack, Jin Ha, Gus Halper, Scoot McNairy, Lesley Manville
By Morgan Roberts
HBO Max launched at the end of May, and while some aspects of the new streaming service may have been too ambitious, the anchoring series, “Love Life” was perfectly timed.
Sam Boyd’s “Love Life” centers on Darby (Anna Kendrick) as she finds and loses love over the course of a decade of her life. We see her fall in love with future Bernie Bro Augie (Jin Ha), have brief encounters with the likes of Danny Two Phones (Gus Halper), and date an older man Bradley (Scoot McNairy).
Dating isn’t easy for Darby – but honestly, who is it easy for? She deals with heartbreak, she experiences love.The series does an interesting job talking more about the complexity of two people in a relationship. It goes outside of those people. For our protagonist, Darby comes from a broken home, her parents divorced when she was young. Her father, Larry (James Le Gros) had a history of substance abuse. Her mother, Claudia (Hope Davis) has mental health struggles and abandonment issues of her own.
There is a trickle-down effect of how we love, and view our self-worth that is inherited from our parents. All of that is brought into how we connect with others. Claudia plays a very big role in Darby’s life. It is interesting to see these two women exist as polar opposites on the same island. There are so many similarities between mother and daughter yet their differences are striking. The way Claudia parented shows up in some of the ways Darby deliberately rebels from tendencies or insecurities.
“Dating isn’t easy for Darby – but honestly, who is it easy for? She deals with heartbreak, she experiences love.The series does an interesting job talking more about the complexity of two people in a relationship.”
Connection is a huge theme of the series. It is not just about the love we feel for romantic partners but for friends as well. Very prominent relationships in Darby’s life are with her best friends Mallory (Sasha Compère) and Sara (Zoe Chao). These women help her navigate her life. They are there for advice and to be shoulders to cry on. In turn, Darby gives as much as she gets from her friends. They happen to be some of the more healthy relationships in her life.
And even then, there are struggles. Particularly as Sara begins to struggle with her own addictions. The relationship between the three women is the one you root for the most. Honestly, episode 8 of the series is dynamite and utterly heartbreaking as you see the most well-developed relationship go through the rockiest of patches.
“Love Life” in many ways follows a romantic comedy path, but finds ways to avoid pitfalls through the deliberate shifts made throughout the series. Kendrick is superb as Darby. There is a humanness to Darby’s sometimes messiness that does not condemn nor condone her actions. There are scenes and moments that Kendrick subtly highlights that are built upon as the series progresses.
“Connection is a huge theme of the series. It is not just about the love we feel for romantic partners but for friends as well.”
And while Kendrick shines, it is Chao who steals the show. As Sara, she is a “ride or die” best friend, even if she is in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend Jim (Peter Vack). If her best friend needs her, she will find the party with the most free booze to take her too. But as any “ride or die” friend, she is not just there for self-destruction, though she does regularly encourage it. Sara makes herself present to provide endless support and love. Which is why the inevitable turn in episode 8 is even more heart-wrenching. Chao gives Sara such heart that when that heart starts hurting, you feel all of that pain with her.
During this pandemic and times of social distancing, “Love Life” is a nice reminder about the ways we connect with humans, and how it is our desire to feel connected to others. Love and connection look different for everyone and looks different in every kind of relationship, but it is something we all strive for. And that is the most lovely thing about us all.