Toronto Book Review

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Netflix’s ‘One Day’: Quotidian Rom-Drama Meanders

British author David Nicholls’ novel “One Day,” initially published in the United States in 2010, garnered attention for its resemblance to Nora Ephron’s beloved rom-com “When Harry Met Sally…” Both narratives follow the trajectory of a man and a woman whose friendship evolves into romance over the years, starting shortly after their college graduation. While Ephron’s film spans 11 years, Nicholls’ novel extends over 19, as the characters navigate failed relationships before realizing their enduring love.

Despite its rom-com roots, “One Day” ventures into territory reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks’s “The Notebook” and Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You.” The novel gained international acclaim and was adapted into a faithful 2011 film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Recently, a 14-episode miniseries adaptation, sticking closely to the novel, premiered on Netflix on Feb. 8.

The series faithfully follows the novel’s structure, beginning on July 15, 1988, with Emma Morley, a bookish idealist from Yorkshire, and Dexter Mayhew, a handsome but indifferent heir to wealth, sharing a moment after their college graduation. The subsequent episodes track their evolving relationship through yearly encounters, highlighting their individual struggles with relationships, family, and career aspirations.

While Emma’s character is portrayed as intelligent, politically aware, and humorous, Dexter’s superficial charm often masks his unpleasant behavior. This disconnect challenges readers’ sympathy for Dexter and their understanding of Emma’s affection for him. The series, created and co-written by Nicole Taylor, remains faithful to the source material, retaining much of the original dialogue. The casting, particularly Ambika Mod as Emma and Leo Woodall as Dexter captures the essence of the characters, enhancing their on-screen chemistry.
However, the series falters when Emma’s character is sidelined, and the focus shifts primarily to Dexter, whose shallowness becomes more pronounced. Despite these shortcomings, viewers may find solace in the chemistry between the lead actors and the faithful adaptation of the novel.

In conclusion, “One Day” offers a poignant exploration of love, friendship, and the passage of time, albeit with some narrative drawbacks. As viewers accompany Emma and Dexter on their journey, they’re reminded of the complexities of human relationships and the enduring power of love.

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