Sometimes epic television means warring kingdoms, overthrown monarchs, ancient prophecies revealed. But sometimes it means something more akin to our own lives, to everyday, awkward, practical, long-lasting romances, elevated through cinematic splendor and followed for decades.
Netflix One day makes a magnificent case for the latter. It is an ambitious and heartfelt adaptation of David Nicholls’ beloved novel about two college students who meet on the night of their graduation. After spending the night together, they decide to be “just friends,” but remain close throughout the decades.
Featuring complex and vivid performances by Ambika Mod (This is going to hurt) and Leo Woodall (The white lotus), a very effective episodic interpretation of Nicholls’ time-jump chapter format, and a romantic and intimate direction, One day makes a cinematic epic about long-term love.
Ultimately, yes, you will cry.
What is One day about?
Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod in “One Day”.
Credit: Ludovic Robert / Netflix
Initially set in Edinburgh in 1988, One day begins with two students: the studious, creative and insecure Emma Morley (Mod) and the popular, directionless and charming Dexter Mayhew (Woodall). She’s from Leeds, he’s from London. She wants to make a difference in the world, he wants to travel and have fun. She thinks he’s vain, he thinks she’s rude. And they connect instantly.
Em and Dex decide to be friends after spending their last night of college together semi-platonically. However, as Emma reads in Charles Dickens’ book, it is High expectationstheir “one day” together that changes everything, as the quote about life says: “Imagine a selected day crossed out and think how different its course would have been.”
From here, One day Tracks nearly two decades from the late ’80s to the mid-2000s, and picks up with Emma and Dexter each year precisely on the date of their meeting, July 15. The series format gives the story more breathing room than it had in Lone Scherfig’s 2011 film. adaptation. Instead, the seven-hour, 14-episode epic uses the novel’s annual time jumps as natural launching pads for the show’s structure.
One Day makes a miraculous marathon of the “friends to lovers” trope.
Credit: Ludovic Robert / Netflix
For romance fans, the friends-to-lovers trope is often a deeply satisfying journey, especially for those who love long games. It’s the stuff of Jane Austen: years and years of longing and confusion, disappointment and fear with the ultimate reward. The antithesis of short-chase rom-coms, romantic dramas like One day embrace transcendent everyday longevity. Prime examples include Richard Linklater. Before series, Past Lives, The notebook, when harry met sally…, and Normal people. K-dramas have always made love perfect, since twenty five twenty one to marry my husband. The slow-burn romance has also become a signature move in television comedy, from The officeIt’s Jim and Pam to Abbott’ Elementarys Janine and Gregorio.
Netflix One day joins the marathon and increases the duration, covering almost two decades throughout its 14 episodes. In particular, the series examines the concept of “bad timing” in relationships in general, the illusion of infinite possibilities and time with the people we love, and the brutal inevitability of impermanence.
Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall are magnetic.
These two 💘
Credit: Teddy Cavendish/Netflix
As Nicholls’ beloved leads Dexter and Emma, Woodall and Mod will have you falling head over heels in love with their relentless chemistry and electric performances that feel comfortable and bristling with repressed desire. Despite leading separate lives with different needs (Dex seeks fame and instant gratification, while Emma seeks personal satisfaction), these two cannot separate each other from their system. Is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-levels of inevitability, their connection with each other.
Spanning the course of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, that time span alone is a huge challenge for the cast, as they have to slowly but surely develop their characters from their twenties to their thirties, a period of time in which your entire being can be put through the proverbial wringer. Mod and Woodall seamlessly take their characters through youthful exuberance and nervousness to jaded maturity, all while gleefully giving each other as much crap as possible. It’s hard work, but Woodall and Mod maintain this authenticity through various haircuts and style changes.
As Normal peopleMarianne and Connell, Em and Dex know each other better than anyone and save each other from the abyss. Self-preservation by roasting each other actually becomes the honesty you both crave. Dex’s chill infuriates Emma, while Emma’s self-flagellation unnerves Dex. They are the constant voice on the other end of the phone through adventures, adventures, professional ups and downs, foreign adventures, and times of deep loss and darkness. (An interesting way to track the passage of time is through the type of phones they use to stay connected, from pay phones and landlines to newer mobile phones.)
But one of the best elements of Nicholls’ novel, and in turn the Netflix series, is that Emma and Dexter are allowed to live full lives independently, and their connection brings out the best in each other (or reminds you).
Credit: Matthew Towers/Netflix
Simply put, Mod is truly outstanding as the deeply relatable Emma. Always cynical and distrustful of frivolity for its own sake, Emma constantly describes herself as “boring” despite being quite the opposite. Mod’s deadpan delivery of Emma’s relatable clumsiness and her infinite ability to eviscerate anyone with words is downright hilarious. She’s also an expert at internalized longing, as Emma solidifies her emotional shield with Dex and refuses to be “the consolation prize” in her life.
The series leaves room for Mod and Woodall to navigate important scenes as Emma struggles with her feelings of disconnection from Dex, particularly as they come from different social classes: Dex from the realms of inherited wealth, Em from a working middle-class family. Dex displays a frivolous attitude toward money with Emma, who works for every penny.
Credit: Matt Torres / Netflix
In Woodall’s hands, Dex proves to be a complex young man, with a life of all parts but never quite feeling anchored in any part of his life. He is struggling to understand himself, including how he feels about Emma, and vacillating between a place of privilege, charm and serenity to despair and depression. Woodall gives a wildly varied performance, with a standout moment involving a terrible day and an answering machine message for Emma. It completely devastated me and it’s not the only moment like this for Dex.
One day celebrates the different chapters of life instead of happily ever after.
Amber Grappy is a perpetual highlight as Tilly.
Through a variety of characters and narrative turns, One day It defends different chapters in people’s lives, not just a whirlwind romance with the necessary happy ending. Em and Dex constantly fail and succeed, together and without each other, just like the people in their lives. It’s a beautiful human reminder that every day is an opportunity to process the past and hold it close while starting something new. In addition to some of life’s biggest moments, the show really focuses on the tiny but monumental acts of kindness, sadness, beauty, pain and connection that define our lives, all amplified by Anne Nikitin’s gorgeous soundtrack, Jessica Jones and Tim Morrish. .
With the same task of authentically developing his characters for two decades, One dayThe supporting cast is equally brilliant. From Amber Grappy as Tilly, Emma’s ever-supportive best friend, to Essie Davis as Alison, Dexter’s glamorous mother, the ensemble’s own arcs allow the leads to flourish. In a bombastic tone, One day doesn’t treat Emma and Dexter’s romantic relationships with other people as distractions from the narrative, but rather imbues characters like Ian (Emma’s fellow comedian, played by Jonny Weldon) as fully formed chapters of the protagonists’ lives.
Essie Davis drinks white wine in the sun as Alison, Dex’s mother.
Credit: Netflix / Matt Torres
Unlike the future promise of the show’s two titular words, there is no moment when things become sublime, perfect, or what we expect from our lives. Each episode, knowing that you will meet the characters exactly a year later, is somewhat compelling, since we can never know where Emma and Dexter ended up this time: together or apart. What a difference a year makes and all that.
Finally, One day It’s about the people we really take a risk for, for whom we give all our defective hearts, who accompany us on our worst days, on our best days, in pain, success, joy, shame, arguments and dreams. Above all, it’s for the people we grow up with.