‘With Love’: Amazon’s Frothy Rom-Com Series Is a Sugary Holiday Treat
Just in time for the holidays, Amazon’s rom-com series “With Love” explores the romantic woes of the members of a close-knit Latinx family in Portland, OR, over five consecutive holidays. Emeraude Toubia leads the ensemble cast as Lily Diaz, a makeup artist whose search for the ideal relationship spans across one eventful year.
Lily dreams of having a lifelong love like that of her grandparents (Renée Victor, Pepe Serna), but when we first meet her on Nochebuena (Christmas Eve), she’s fresh off a breakup from her humdrum boyfriend of three years. It’s at a wine shop on the way to her family’s party that she first sees Santiago Zayas (Rome Flynn) as he is walking out. They lock eyes for a fleeting moment, and she proceeds to ask out and get nicely rejected by clerk Henry (Vincent Rodriguez III). Awkwardness ensues when she gets to the apartment of her brother, Jorge (Mark Idelicato), and discovers that Henry is his boyfriend. Later, at the family party, Henry reveals that he is bisexual, and it is a hilarious scene that emphasizes the differences between the generations when it comes to sexuality, as Henry ends up explaining to the older relatives what this means to him. However, creator Gloria Calderón Kellet does not go far enough in exploring this, and Henry’s bixsexuality doesn’t come into play for the rest of the season, leaving a missed opportunity for a love triangle.
Calderón Kellet does succeed however when it comes to telling diverse stories and breaking the heteronormative mold. Non-binary Sol (Isis King), a doctor completing their oncology residency, is both Lily and Jorge’s cousin and the doctor who treats Santiago’s mother before she dies early on in the series. They enjoy a flirtation and eventual romance with plastic surgeon, Miles (Todd Grinnell), but the budding romance hits a bump after Sol discovers that Miles has hidden from them that he has a child, who also turns out to be non-binary. This storyline is satisfying because it explores the creation of an unconventional family, and Sol admits that they never thought kids and a happy relationship would be in the cards for them.
Jorge and Henry’s relationship is the strongest in the series, although they experience their first big setback after Henry’s job takes him to Los Angeles and Jorge, who runs a food truck and therefore can take his business anywhere, reluctantly tags along. Compromise is an important part of any relationship, but the move is hard on Jorge, as she is super close to Lily and the rest of his family. The Diaz family is pretty typical, as far as TV families go, but in the real world their dynamic can be labeled as codependent and even unhealthy, and Henry says as much. It’s an amusing moment to see an “outsider” character call out something like that.
The series also explores mature love, as Lily and Jorge’s parents, Beatriz (Constance Marie) and Jorge Sr. (Benito Martinez), hit a slump in their marriage. This storyline is probably the most realistic one, as the couple struggles to rebuild after years of taking each other for granted. Beatriz joins a running group and ends up having an emotional affair. The fallout takes months for her and Jorge Sr. to recover from.
Lily eventually ends up with Santiago, and the two have the most conventional relationship, not just because they’re straight cis people, but because they feel like the most rom-com type of couple. While Lily dreams of a magical love that leads to marriage, Santiago has a more cynical view of relationships. After meet-cutes on New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, the two are hot and heavy by the Fourth of July, but there’s trouble in paradise by Día de Muertos. Lily’s journey also includes a fling with Jorge’s himbo roommate, Nick (Desmond Chiam), but things get sticky after he develops feelings for her, and it’s another subplot that’s too easily resolved.
All in all, “With Love” is the television equivalent of hot cocoa on Christmas Day, full of sugary comfort. Most everything wraps up nicely here with a bow on top. Those who like to watch programs around the holidays that provide easy cheer will appreciate this one, and at only five episodes, it’s an easy watch, although strong language and sex scenes make it adults-only viewing.
“With Love” begins streaming Dec. 17 on Amazon Prime Video.