(Warning: This post contains spoilers through Episode 105 of HBO Max’s “Love Life,” titled “Luke Ducharme.”)
For the first four episodes of HBO Max’s “Love Life,” we’ve followed Darby Carter’s (Anna Kendrick) journey to finding “the one,” starting in her early ’20s and moving one year into her future with each new half-hour. But in Episode 105, viewers travel back to 2006 to see Darby’s first experience in the world of dating when she was 15 years old, falling for a boy named Luke Ducharme at her boarding school.
This relationship, while very short-lived, has a huge impact on the rest of Darby’s life due to how traumatically it ends when she makes up a lie about having cancer that spreads like wildfire throughout the student body.
“She makes this really, really bad decision, but you kind of understand it at the same time and just watching it get worse and worse and worse as she digs herself in deeper,” executive producer Paul Feig told TheWrap. “But what is more of a 15-year-old thing to do than make a terrible mistake and just ride it all the way down into the ground?”
Darby recounts this story from her youth in the year 2016, during her first session with a therapist she met with to talk about her communication problems with her fiancé, Magnus (Nick Thune). Darby agreed to marry Magnus — a flighty chef she recently moved in with — at the end of Episode 104, even after learning he had hidden some serious financial problems from her.
It’s Darby’s fear of being rejected by Magnus that prompts the therapist to ask her about her very first experience with rejection. And that’s when our heroine flashes back to the Thanksgiving break she spent hanging out with the hot man on campus, Luke Ducharme, during her short stint at boarding school (which she applied to because she was trying to get her parents attention).
When everyone comes back from break, Luke distances himself from Darby and eventually sleeps with her roommate, upsetting her so much that when her roommate tries to comfort her about the situation, Darby lies and says she’s actually distraught because she has cancer. Suddenly, Darby’s the center of attention and Luke is right by her side again. But eventually, the truth comes out to everyone and a mortified, sobbing Darby is taken home by her parents, leaving the school without saying goodbye to Luke.
Feig says he “absolutely” loves the episode and Courtney Grosbeck’s performance as Teen Darby.
“It’s always a tricky thing when you have to cast the younger version of an actress. I just did it in my movie ‘Last Christmas’ because I had to have a younger version of Emilia Clarke,” Feig said. “But in that one she had to be a singer and there had to be that quality about her. So we had seen other young actresses who looked much, much more like Emilia did, but they just didn’t connect emotionally the way the girl we hired did. And so it’s the same thing with this, which is you got to get the performance right first.”
He added: “And there has to be some modicum of resemblance but, that said, there are things you can do to make that more so. But they have to have the soul and that kind of emotional connection to the character and be a great actress. And that young lady we hired, her facial expressions just killed me. Just those looks, you can read what’s going on in her head.”
Episodes 101-106 of “Love Life” are streaming now on HBO Max. The final four episodes of the season will launch next Thursday.