One Day: Season 1 REVIEW – The Ultimate Love Story

"A day sly and unseen"

One Day
One Day

Finding books that you will love for the rest of your life has always felt like serendipity to me. I discovered One Day by David Nicholls on a random library trip, and for the first time I understood what real, authentic love is supposed to look like. The 2011 movie is not the best adaptation a reader could hope for: Anne Hathaway could not pull off a credible Leeds accent, and Jim Sturgess felt miscast. But it was the only visual medium I had of my favourite romance novel, and at times, I did think about what an adaptation would look like if it was a series.

So this adaptation of One Day feels like a dream come true. It captures the tone of the novel perfectly, and the casting is absolutely spot-on. It feels like Dexter and Emma have strolled out from page to screen, which is no easy feat to accomplish.

One Day follows the characters Dexter (Leo Woodall) and Emma (Ambika Mod) every year on St. Swithin’s Day – July 15. The series starts when they first meet in the late 1980s, and ends in the early 2000s. From the get-go, Woodall is everything I imagined Dexter to be. He has that easy, boyish charm, smashing good looks, and is probably the crush of every college girl that happens to be in his vicinity. But with all those good looks comes a certain carelessness when it comes to the feelings of others. I’ve watched Woodall before, in HBO’s The White Lotus, and he’s so completely different here that I didn’t even recognise him. Mod’s performance as Emma takes a bit more time to settle in, but by the second episode there’s a stronger sense of her characterisation. Emma’s known for her biting wit, and Mod is able to convey that with such ease.

Some might not appreciate the format of One Day, as we follow the characters only on one day of the year, so we’re missing out on a visual unfolding of their relationship. However, I think the show does an excellent job of helping us feel the depth and richness of their friendship with each passing year. Each episode ends with some sense of the future in its periphery, so we’re not too stunned and taken aback by the new events that we watch unfold a year later. It does break this format at some point, since we do visit a day that isn’t July 15th, but it makes sense to the progression of the narrative.

There are episodes where Dexter and Emma aren’t even together in the same place, or not even talking at the moment, so we follow them individually instead. But the show makes sure to parallel their life events in a way, which helps build and maintain their connection even when they’re not on screen together. Woodall and Mod have such electric and effortless chemistry together that you will find yourself missing them together whenever they’re apart. There’s constant yearning for the other, even when they are with other people.

It’s clear from the beginning of their relationship that Dexter and Emma are into each other, otherwise why would they end up making out in her dorm room and spend the whole next day together? In those early days, as Emma gets to know Dexter, she sees him for who he is and what he’ll do to her if she hands him her heart. Life has always been easy for Dexter, who can usually charm the socks off any woman he meets. He’s never had to work at anything, and she knows more than he does that if they start something, she will end up heartbroken and a footnote in the book that is his life. So she proposes friendship instead.

Some viewers might feel whiplash at the ‘will they, won’t they’ aspect of the narrative, since quite a number of Dexter and Emma’s scenes carry with them a certain tension. If they both clearly want to, why don’t they? For Emma, it’s easy to understand why — she can’t bring herself to be vulnerable and admit her feelings to Dexter. As for Dexter, he fears abandonment. He makes sure his relationships are all fun and transient, so he never has to catch feelings and fear the other person leaving him. It can be frustrating to those of us watching, but it also feels absolutely real. It’s actually very difficult to be vulnerable and put yourself out there, especially when there’s no guarantee that the other person is in the same place you’re in.

Real love isn’t glossy perfection; it’s messy, sometimes even boring as you find yourselves doing the same exact thing, day in day out. But there’s such a sense of joy in watching Dexter and Emma live their lives together, sharing a connection that so many of us dream of finding yet rarely do. It’s also a story about how each day we live matters, because we just might meet the people that will change our lives forever. Absolutely moving and swoon worthy – all at once.

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One Day
One Day does an excellent job of adapting its source material and is the romance genre at its finest. Woodall and Mod are terrific together, and do an incredible job of making Dexter and Emma's relationship feel authentic and real.