17 May 2024

One Day is a wonderful dose of nostalgia

| Rama Gaind
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Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall star in One Day, capturing the essence of longing felt by the protagonists.

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall star in One Day, capturing the essence of longing felt by the protagonists. Photo: Supplied.

It takes the story of a 20-year relationship between two improbable best friends — Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew — to delve deeply and challenge the notion of destiny and life’s unpredictable erratic pace.

Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by David Nicholls, One Day is a British romantic drama series that’s an unpretentious reminder of the preciousness of time. It also reiterates how timelines are often more dominant and unmanageable even with like-minded and like-souled people.

Nicholls’ novel was first adapted for the screen in 2011, with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess starring as Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, respectively. Fans have declared the new Netflix show as being better than the movie version — as it is more faithful to the book.

Over two decades, the lives of two people are forever intertwined. Here is a much-loved story of Emma (Ambika Mod) and Dex (Leo Woodall), told over 14 episodes.

After a brief college romance, Emma and Dexter pursue separate dreams, but meet on the same day each year to compare their progress in life and love. It has succeeded in becoming one of the most talked about pop culture ‘moments of this year’.

The narrative follows Edinburgh University students Emma Morley (Ambika Mod, This Is Going to Hurt) and Dexter Mayhew (Leo Woodall, The White Lotus), after they meet on 15 July 1988 on the night of their graduation.

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The rest of the story takes place on 15 July for the next two decades, as Emma and Dexter’s lives change, the pair come together and grow apart and experience highs, lows and heartbreak.

Ambika and Leo deliver star-making turns in this achingly beautiful romantic drama. As Dex and Em, their chemistry is palpable and genuine. The series centres on the importance of the first day these characters spend together, and that is what sets the foundation for their romance to continue indefinitely.

Emma and Dex’s differing subtleties and resistance raises the tension and makes their eventual relationship more poignant in the series.

It’s Emma who asks some valid questions: “It’s one of the cosmic mysteries. How it is that someone can go from being a total stranger to being the most important person in your life? What do you wanna be when you’re 40?”

Dexter asks: “Am I allowed to say rich?”

Then it’s his turn to ask: “What about you?”

“I want to do something that actually makes a difference.”

“Change the world you mean?”

Em answers: “Maybe just my own tiny corner of it.”

Dex: “You have all these people telling you how great you are. You know, smart and funny and talented … I’ve been telling you for years. So, why don’t you believe it?”

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Then fate had its own ideas. As Emma relays it: “Imagine one selected day struck out of your life. And think how different its course would have been.”

The protagonists keep things platonic, choosing to have conversations, making enough of an emotional connection to promise each other that they’ll stay in touch.

A tearjerker of Titanic proportions, it is rare for a show to eloquently capture the elation of young love and the heartache of grief with elegance.

Stunning backdrops add appeal to One Day, which is fanciful and lightheaded, but also intense and lyrical.

The show’s score, adding an ethereal quality to the story, was composed by Jessica Jones (The Tinder Swindler), Tim Morrish (Aquaman, Paddington 2) and Anne Nikitin (This Beautiful Fantastic).

Chronicling the passage of time, One Day is by turns subdued and romanticised, but always emotionally exhausting.

One Day, created by Nicole Taylor, is streaming on Netflix.

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