If you’re an American citizen, chances are you’re in debt up to your fucking eyeballs and it’s not going to be any better any time soon because the United States economy is in the absolute shitter. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and Donald Trump’s ongoing economic sabotage, the warning signs were there. Consumer debt, medical debt, student loans. Ascending to this nation’s middle class required some level of acquiring profitable sponsors.
Love and Debt explores the depressing reality of the modern American middle class with a family tale told in ABC Family original-movie style. It has schmaltz, a bit of the playful “oh my goodness, our teenage daughter got a bellybutton ring” reactions, some cheeky sex humor. All cut with some surprisingly intense emotional drama and a double-header story that thoughtfully approaches modern debt and debtors.
The main plot follows recently laid-off father Henry (Tom Kavanaugh), an actor always reliable for an emotive and likable performance. Henry has $80,000 in debt with a difficult road back to gainful employment. Travis (Casey Abrams) is a recent college graduate hired with a debt collection company tasked to bringing in Henry’s debts. He’s idealistic and very quickly clashes with the soulless corporate culture. How relatable.
Debt and stress drive a wedge between Henry and his wife, Karen (Bellamy Young), whose aging parents and kids are already pressuring their lives relentlessly. The family film patina doesn’t alleviate the tension between the two when things start to really crack (and one of them ends up, accidentally and quasi-comically, run over during an argument). Travis, who throughout the film makes contact with almost every family member in his reluctant collection attempts, vicariously witnesses the family’s troubles.
Perhaps the only weakness with Love and Debt is that it ends with a message more uplifting — that our debts and mistakes don’t define us and that we should love who we have — than it is, for lack of a better term, relevant. That’s not to say the message it imparts about appreciating who we have isn’t important or worth remembering — particularly now, when who we have is basically all we have. Perhaps I’m just bristling at the way Love and Debt does a pretty good job in its depiction of the perpetual crushing of working-class dreams by fellow indebted members of society within the soul-sucking ouroboros of American capitalism.