Shakespeare knew exactly what he was on about when he has handsome young Athenian Lysander say, in romantically charged comedy of magical errors A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “For aught that I could ever read, could ever hear by tale or history, the course of true love never did run smooth.”
Indeed. The fraught voyage towards finding (or not, or losing) love has fascinated us for millennia. Long before the Bard and ever since, countless creative minds have pondered this quest in books, movies, music, poetry, plays and so much more. Entire industries have sprung up around finding the one, or the one for right now, but it’s been particularly tricky these last two years.
With an upended world pulled out from beneath our feet thanks to COVID, big-hearted documentary The Year That Changed Love checked in with lonely lovers the length and breadth of the UK, taking in lockdowns and social distancing rules pre-vaccines during the first round of the pandemic in 2020. It reveals that the world record for swipes on Tinder fell one fateful day in March, with three billion folks around the world reaching out to one another while shielding at home.
One of those dear souls was effervescent 23-year-old gay London lad Bradley, who hates being single. He notes that, “dating, love, intimacy, everyone was after that, because that was the one thing you needed,” during this time. Bless him, though. He probably could have done with a touch more isolation after moving back in with his mum, step-dad, three siblings and two dogs. With nary a moment’s peace to himself, is it any wonder that he also says, exasperatedly, “the need for dick is high.”
After being ghosted by one too many frogs, he eventually matches with Tom, and can’t wait for the moment they can finally meet in a park when rules allow. You’ll soon find out if he’s the prince Bradley’s been impatiently waiting for. Meanwhile, up in Scottish capital city Edinburgh, lesbian couple Claire and Jade live up to the long-held stereotype by moving in with one another after just one date when lockdown awaits.
They, too, matched on Tinder, with Claire sealing the deal by sending Jade a pic of her boobs on Snapchat, causing the latter to nearly choke on her afternoon ciggie. Who says romance is dead? Cheeky and cheery in equal measure, it’s a genuine joy to see how that unfolds for the extremely funny pair.
Way out west in Wales, longstanding young couple Ffion and Ben, who both have Down syndrome, have had to shield separately. While they may not be able to “cwtch”, which means hug in Welsh, they do keep in constant contact via text, phone calls, presents and the ever-present Zoom. And when they finally get to meet face to face again (but sadly not cwtch just yet), it’s the best.
Also blooming lovely is the self-help journey of Louise in Wiltshire in the southwest of England, a place famous for its prehistoric and purportedly mystical rock monument Stonehenge. Her husband decided to scarper while she was recuperating from brain surgery and had gained a little weight. It’s safe to say her confidence takes a bit of a knock as a result if this cad’s bad behaviour, but with the help of an online love coach, she puts herself back out there again via Tinder. All we’ll say about this beautiful thread is that even when a first date underwhelms, her sheer, unadulterated joy at being back in a pub is *chef’s kiss*.
And finally, there’s Emma and Dean, the Yorkshire couple who best represent the unsmooth course of true love. She’s a beauty therapist trying to do her best, delivering tips via online tutorials while navigating single life, hunkering down with her young son Cole. When the pandemic hits, she decides, nobly, that it will be better for their boy if estranged husband Dean moves back in.
The eyeroll Olympics that promptly break out between them is kinda comedy gold. Top marks to Emma on commenting that he should get back to the kitchen where he belongs. It’s the uproarious upending of gender stereotypes we can fully get on board with. And if their rocky co-habitation seems like a disaster waiting to happen, then brace yourself for a Christmas miracle, folks. Have tissues at the ready when their tragic backstory is revealed and everything changes.
With Omicron on the move and so much up in the air, The Year That Changed Love is the ode to romance we need right now, whether you just want some “d”, or are hankering for happily ever after.
The Year That Changed Love is now streaming at SBS On Demand:
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