The Lessons I’ve Learned from Anna Kendrick’s HBO Max show, ‘Love Life’

Since quarantine started I’ve found myself searching for ways to fill the void of experiences I can’t have. And by experiences I mean the most basic ones, like going to an indoor restaurant, going shopping and trying on hundreds of items and not buying any of them. Even just making it onto the subway right before the doors close to then be smashed up against a random stranger I’ll never see again. You know, the little things in life when nothing stopped us from running onto a subway car or touching every clothing item in the store just because we can.

And I’m probably not the only one here searching for an escape to forget for at least a little that I can’t live in those moments I miss so much. But I’m also missing human connection- the ability to meet people and the possibility to have a romantic connection, on a night or evening out. So when I discovered the HBO Max show Love Life, it surely hit the spot.

Love Life is perfect for the 20-somethings who grew up watching rom-coms that showed us love wasn’t that messy. Rom-coms show us that the guy you crushed on in high school will come running to you ten years later. They’ll show you that every love story starts with the girl who’s lost searching for her “prince charming.” And she finds him. They go through some messy, pretty predictable drama, but they find their way back to each other, almost always. And if they don’t, then you’re probably not watching a romantic comedy.

Yet, Love Life follows an entirely different, more refreshing narrative, as it debunks everything we’ve been (unfortunately) taught about love. The show suggests that the journey to love isn’t a straight line from one point to another. It is fuzzy; it is unknown; it is confusing; it is heartbreaking, but it is also beautiful.

So, here’s what the main character and I learned during the show. *DISCLAIMER: I will not use any specific names or say exactly what happens. Everything is pretty general but there are some spoilers ahead.*

Often, if we are upset in current relationships or lack thereof, we imagine what it’d be like if a past relationship didn’t fail. If it was different timing or circumstances. Darby discovers that she keeps bumping into one of her exes over the years. She finds herself seeing him with another girl and then later stalks his social media. It isn’t entirely clear in the series, but I think Darby never really got over him for several years. And when they see each other again her ex says something interesting, along the lines of “I wonder what would have happened with us if I never left.”

It’s the what-if’s that leave people clung to the past. The “I wonder what would have happened “ is the real kicker. And Darby’s story suggests how common it is for people to think about past loves or almost loves. How normal it is to see a chance encounter as fate. But oftentimes it’s not. And Darby realizes that maybe love isn’t that magical- it doesn’t always have to be the guy she knew along that she ends up with. And in this case, this ex of hers is not the one for her, as much as she might have thought he was back then.

At the beginning of the show, Darby isn’t all that happy with her career. And there are times where she lies to guys or friends of her boyfriends about it, in hopes of impressing them. She starts dating one of her boyfriends soon after he divorces who she believes to be the perfect woman. She can’t even believe he wants her after the first girl. And so she sort of reinvents herself with him and does all she can to be the perfect girlfriend. But that gets the best of her, and her insecurities come out in a crazy scene that I will not give away — you just gotta see it.

The writers, and Anna Kendrick, did an amazing job of depicting a realistic character whose life journey is so believable that you think it could very well happen to you. There is no “connect-the-dots” type of ending, but it is probably one of the most realistic endings to any fictional love-story I’ve ever watched or read.

Originally written on July 9, 2020.