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Review: “Love Is___,” Love Ain’t

Courtesy of OWN

OWN’s Love Is ___ is the true story of Black Hollywood Powerhouse couple Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. The format takes place like a present-day interview of the married couple as they recall the details of how they met. The episodes then flashes back to a younger Nuri and Yasir, recent Los Angeles transplants trying to break into the television writing world. As a career woman who has recently begun thinking about re-entering the dating world, I particularly appreciate the depiction of young Nuri. We watch her as she balance dating, home ownership, and her writing gig for the show “Marvin,” which I am sure is in reference to the popular ‘90s sitcom starring Martin Lawrence. Nuri is young and enjoying single life and all it has to offer. She has man friends in Los Angeles and New York; she creates boundaries, prioritizing her career and keeping it fun. This seems to change when she crosses paths with Yasir for the second time.

What I don’t understand and have been baffled by for the last few days is why homie is walking around in his underwear. Like literally. I get that he is a struggling writer, but why is he in public in his drawers? The fact that we see him several scenes later fully clothed makes this even more confusing. Another equally baffling moment occurs when Nuri meets up with Yasir to decline his offer for a once-in-a-lifetime live performance. Yasir does not let her back out without a fight and the two of them end up spending hours sitting in the coffee shop until four in the morning. Before parting, they engage in a hypothetical scenario where they have been together for a year. Yasir asks Nuri what she would say to him, and she responds with, “I would say I love you.”

Whoa. Pump the brakes. This is moving way too fast. That was my reaction. That, and this soundtrack is lit!

In matter of only hours, these two appear to be madly in love, and I am confused for a number of reasons. Firstly, I know this is based on the real-life romance of Mara and Salim, but this does not feel real. Secondly, if they are already in love in the first episode, what is the trajectory of the series? To be clear, these baffling moments are not deal breakers; it’s actually the opposite. I eagerly anticipate the following episodes in which we get to experience more of their romance unfold.

Fast forward to the next two episodes. Even though time has passed (perhaps a few days or weeks), they are still in love. Nuri, a self-proclaimed workaholic, who states that her job was her man, even skips out on an important recording of the show to meet Nasir at a concert that neither one of them is sure the other will attend. This concert and the subsequent sleepover solidify their romance. However, Yasir is put to test when he stands Nuri up for drinks as he attends to his ex-girlfriend and former roommate Ruby post-surgery. Nuri shows up at Ruby’s apartment demanding answers and Yasir promises to tell her tomorrow after he closes the door in her face.

Since we know that they end up together, these perceived setbacks do not hold the weight they could if we were not sure of the outcome. However, they do spark the desire for us to understand how they overcame. We wonder how they manage to push through the challenges to prioritize the love between them. In a time where it is hard to trust and people are afraid to be vulnerable, it is refreshing to see them open themselves to one another. It is inspiring to see them take risks and encouraging to see those risks take off. I find the speed of their romance strange and foreign, but I am definitely rooting for them and interested in learning from their courtship. While I do not anticipate intentionally seeking out a man who is struggling financially, this series is challenging me to remain open to love because you never know what form it may take.

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