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Love In A Time Of Change – One Day (TV Review)

3 min read
The cast of Netflix's One Day

It’s 1988. We’re listening to the Theme from S’Express, and Emma Morley (Ambika Mod) and Dexter Mayhew (Leo Woodall) are graduating from college as perfect strangers. Their story together begins here and spans for 20 years as they navigate love and life, set against the backdrop of a constantly changing social landscape. 

Nestled in the familiar embrace of Edinburgh, a sense of comfort washes over us as Dex and Em affectionately call each other, and share a fateful night on July 15. A fleeting encounter intended as a one-night stand evolved into a deep connection lasting a lifetime. Their transformation from friends to lovers is a trope both forgiven and celebrated, crafted with rare authenticity and depth that resonates profoundly with the viewer. The show revisits them year after year after they vow to change and experience the world. 

Based on the bestselling novel by David Nicholls, this series benefited from a built-in fan base eager to see how the beloved story would translate to this particular medium. One Day offers a captivating narrative, in which the viewer joins the same two people on the same day each year. This format very much lends itself to a series with episodic storytelling, rather than a film, so this was a masterful stroke by Netflix. This structure meant each episode could be dedicated to a year in itself, letting the material breathe properly for the first time since it was written. It introduces a new generation to a classic and immerses them in an emotionally resonant journey. 

The series boasts strong performances throughout its 14-episode run. At the heart of the series are Mod and Woodall, who embody Emma and Dexter with an undeniable chemistry that sparks from their initial encounter to the last we see of them. Mod’s portrayal exudes a delicate balance of disdain and affection, while Woodall captivates with a charm tinged with the bitterness of life’s disappointments. Both actors deliver powerhouse performances, particularly in the series’ most poignant moments. Eleanor Tomlinson and Jonny Weldon shine as the pair’s respective romantic interests that the audience actively roots against. However, it’s Essie Davis as Alison, Dexter’s mother, who steals the spotlight with her multifaceted portrayal, enhancing Woodall’s performance with her breadth of emotional depth. 

Through the lens of Emma and Dexter’s tumultuous relationship, the series explores the complexities of human connection, highlighting the joys and sorrows that accompany the marching of time. Themes of regret, redemption, and the inevitability of change are woven throughout the story, inviting viewers to reflect on their own relationships and life choices. It strikes a chord with audiences on a deep emotional level and leaves a lasting impact. Much like its literary and cinematic counterparts, this adaptation leaves viewers pondering profound questions long after the final credits roll on the final episode. 

Set to sounds of the 80s, 90s, and onwards, the soundtrack certainly complemented the storytelling. It very often evoked notes of nostalgia and set the tone just right for each scene. Particular highlights were Vanbur’s Falling Colour, Anyone Who Knows What Love Is by Irma Thomas, Anthem from N-Joi, Connection by Elastica, and Where Were You by Mekons. Its visual storytelling skilfully captures the passage of time and the evolution of the pair’s lives, which becomes a difficult task when applying this to the characters. This is possibly its only weakness, as both actors seem to stop aging at a point, as they are both more suited to the younger age they start the story off as. However, from the picturesque streets of Edinburgh to the bustling cityscapes of London, each location within the show is imbued with its own distinct atmosphere, serving as both backdrop and catalyst for Emma’s and Dexter’s journeys. The use of the annual rendezvous on July 15 and the changing seasons further enhances the cyclical nature of life and love. 

Ultimately, One Day is a poignant meditation on the power of love through time. As Emma and Dexter navigate the highs and lows of their intertwined lives, they remind us that every encounter, every moment, carries the potential for transformation and growth. Through its compelling storytelling, rich character development, and exquisite cinematography, One Day leaves an indelible mark on the hearts of its viewers, offering a timeless testament to the beauty of life’s fleeting moments. 

One Day is now streaming on Netflix.