‘One Day’ Netflix series review: A grand saccharine predictable love affair

Television has not always mastered the portrayal of romance, especially given its more expansive format compared to film. It often tends to broaden the narrative around a couple or dilute their dynamic amongst a larger cast. However, Netflix’s series “One Day” leverages television’s extended format to its advantage, albeit not without being dragged down by it at times.

The series introduces us to Emma, played by Ambika Mod, and Dexter, portrayed by Leo Woodall, as they stumble upon each other on the night of their graduation. Taken by surprise and uncertain about the profound connection they share, they spend the night exchanging playful banter. As dawn breaks, they vow to stay connected. This pledge is the recurring theme across the 14 episodes that revisit the couple every July 15th over successive years, showcasing the evolution of their relationship amidst the challenges of adulthood.

“One Day” is an adaptation of David Nicholls’ 2009 book which was previously brought to the screen in a 2011 film featuring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Staying true to its source, the Netflix iteration embraces the book’s concept of dedicating each episode to a ‘chapter’ – or rather, a year in the lives of Emma and Dexter. As each July 15th unfurls, viewers witness the characters’ growth, both jointly and separately. They transition from optimistic college graduates to world-weary adults. While their mutual affection is palpable to viewers, both Emma and Dexter hesitate to indulge in anything that appears too risky.

In a narrative where the eventual romance is foreshadowed, “One Day” finds the time to deeply explore the protagonists’ individual lives apart from each other. Emma, who once dreamed of becoming a writer and an agent of change, finds herself as a teacher. Meanwhile, Dexter, who never had a solid plan, lands a job as a television host, bringing him a transient taste of fame. It is in these vignettes of their separate lives that “One Day” delivers some of its most compelling storytelling.

The chemistry between the characters is palpable throughout the series, with a will-they-won’t-they tension that keeps viewers engaged. However, there are moments when Emma and Dexter’s lingering glances risk becoming nothing more than that – glances devoid of the narrative progression that the audience might crave. This is particularly evident when they reunite after years and there is so much they want to share with one another. The writing sometimes fails to harness this buildup effectively, which can leave the pacing feeling off-balance, albeit without entirely detracting from the chemistry between the actors.

Woodall and Mod deliver strong performances that anchor the series. Mod, in particular, is notable for her portrayal of Emma’s subtle transformations over the years. A more even distribution of screen time would have been beneficial to highlight her nuanced performance even more.

Ultimately, “One Day” is a series that manages to be grand in its temporal scope while remaining fundamentally sweet and unsurprisingly predictable. Its strength lies in portraying individual character growth, which resonates even as the show navigates the typical beats of a slow-burn romance. Despite its predictability, the series’ unique premise of annual check-ins with Emma and Dexter provides a fresh twist on the classic romantic formula.

For those eager to follow the annual milestones in the relationship of Emma and Dexter, “One Day” is available for streaming on Netflix. Whether or not viewers find themselves rooting for the couple, the series offers a chance to reflect on the passage of time, life’s unforeseen paths, and the enduring power of connection.

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