Let’s face it, love and the holidays just go together. Why else would we have all these cheesy Christmas romance films? There’s just something about winter nights and sparkling lights that screams “go cozy up with someone you love.” But unfortunately, when looking at the narrative of romance and Christmas, there are going to be some problems. Think The Holiday or Love Actually, which feature largely (or entirely) white casts and a straight, Anglo definition of love. In films like these, we find men and women, alone in their individualism, trying to find someone to make a new, tiny nuclear family with (and often repeating tired gender dynamics along the way).
Thankfully, that’s starting to change. This year, we saw not one but two made-for-TV Christmas movies staring Latina lovers — Lifetime’s Holiday in Santa Fe and CBS’s A Christmas Proposal. We also got more LGBTQ+ content, thanks in part to Single All the Way. But my favorite this holiday season is With Love. Amazon dropped the series by Gloria Calderón Kellett on Dec. 17, and it’s been a bright spot this holiday season ever since. Calderón Kellett was the force behind One Day at a Time, and she brings the same warmth and compassion to her latest endeavor, a cross-generational holiday romance that follows one family for a year through their relationship highs and lows.
It’s not just that With Love hits all the right representation notes — although it does. This is a Latinx show with Black and mestiza families; trans and cis lovers; gay, straight, and bi pairings; new and decades-old romances. It’s got it all, but rather than feeling like it’s checking boxes or picking just one character to represent a vast multitude, With Love gives each of its principal lovers motivations, peers, and backstories, ensuring we see them as whole human beings, not archetypes.
This five-part series dramatizes the best Latinx ideas about love, starting with the idea that it’s not just romantic. Love Actually purported to do that but actually failed by making the vast majority of its plot lines romantic and portraying family, when it did come up, largely as an obstacle to romance.
Obviously, that’s not how we do it in Latinx families. I know all sorts of people who say when you date someone, you date their whole family, but Latinxs like With Love‘s Diaz clan take it to a whole other level. Henry (played by Vincent Rodriguez) initially complains about it to Jorge (played by Mark Indelicato) but learns to embrace his new adopted family. And while there are lots of tumultuous relationships in With Love, the one I was most interested in was between brother Jorge and sister Lily, played by Emeraude Toubia. They have the same level of dysfunction (lying for months about a relationship, though well-intended) and joy (family karaoke duets, must-have phone calls) of any romance.
And while plenty of new couples form over the course of the series, With Love is clear that it’s not just finding and falling in love that counts. Jorge and Lily’s parents are the elder couple of this show, and they’re having problems. Beatriz (played by Constance Marie) misses sex and desire, even though she clearly has a kind, warm husband in Jorge Sr. (played by Benito Martinez). When she checks out emotionally, the two find themselves having to fight to keep the marriage alive. Their romance is just as important as the next generation’s current flames, if not more so, as theirs serves as the blueprint for those who come after.
Throw in some randy abuelos and a raunchy single aunt (Calderón Kellett kills this role), and you have a show that demonstrates the collectivist ideal — a family who nurture their members, love each other, and help their members grow, no matter their age, gender, skin tone, or sexuality. It’s love, Latinx love, in all its beauty, and I for one am rooting for it to become the next holiday classic. The one we rewatch every year with our sweeties, young and old, as the days get shorter and the tamales steam.
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