One Day review: Netflix hits gold with beautiful, decades-spanning love story | Web Series - Hindustan Times
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One Day review: Netflix hits gold with beautiful, decades-spanning love story

Feb 15, 2024 06:17 AM IST

One Day review: Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod are wonderful in this unmissable tale of love and longing. It might also leave you bawling your eyes out.

What really makes a romcom work? Its so easy to get it wrong, and I'm certainly not alone in spotting trouble in the first five minutes of whether a pair works or not. The genre has been done so many times, and there's either too much cheesiness or too much effort or… zero chemistry. One Day - the new 14-part Netflix series, based on David Nicholl's bestselling novel of the same name, has none of that. It works, unexpectedly at first, and then builds and builds its way towards the heart. Gorgeously romantic, funny and ultimately heartbreaking, One Day is the first great (bingeable) show of the year. (Also read: Love Storiyaan review: An intimate Valentine's Day date between the personal and the political)

Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod in One Day.
Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod in One Day.

The premise

Forget that lousy 2011 feature film adaptation with Anne Hathaway. The new adaptation uses the format of web series to inject much-needed life into this story of the central 'will-they-won't-they' relationship that spans out between Dexter (Leo Woodall) and Emma (Ambika Mod) for the course of two decades. It starts in 1998 when the two meet at the night of their graduation and from there on, each episode takes up on that date - July 15, over the years. Their meet-cute romance turns into a failed one night stand in the beginning but there's a spark somewhere. Emma is nerdy and eager to embark on to her goals, and admits that she wants to change the world. Not the whole world, but just a little corner. In contrast, Dexter is wayward and rich, carelessly striding his way through privilege. Together, they are like a fine balance of opposites, struggling to find the words to communicate to one another when they most need it.

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The back and forth takes its own captivating turns. Directors Molly Manners, Luke Snelin and John Hardwick and Kate Hewitt pull off some kind of a marvel in balancing the tone and structure of the episodic chapters, which never feels too neat or less heartfelt. The attention to time-specific detail works wonders: mostly because Emma and Dexter don't share a relationship via their phones. Although the flip phones does find its way into their dynamic eventually- theirs is a bond developed in little anecdotes and wistful one-liners. More situational and organic, somehow. Our heart breaks when Dexter has a particularly horrible day at home with his dying mom (Essie Davis, in a wonderful performance), and feels all the frustration when Emma tells Dexter that she had a crush on him years later. Even if she uses the past tense, she (and, in extension us) knows that the crush is still very much alive.

What works

Each of these episodes are so polished and rounded in their own capacity that it could very much be its own short film. One Day is marvelously attuned to these moments of standalone beauty and feeling- of Dexter arriving at the train station to call Emma. Or that moment where they meet each other years later, burning with ache and longing. So much information and details is skipped in-between, but the screenplay co-written by Nicole Taylor, Anna Jordon, Bijan Sheibani and Vinay Patel is so confident that the wonder plays out in those gaps, asking us to fill in. Episode 7 in particular, centered around a volcano of contrasting vibes at a single restaurant table, is a standout.

Providing excellent support to this in entirety are the breakout performances of Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod. I was not really sure how Ambika's casting would work beside Leo in the seemingly realistic world that One Day creates, but the two actors are simply undeniable together. Ambika brings that very specific brash and awkward sense of humour to Emma; her face alive to a thousand different emotions at once. And Leo is a major standout after his supporting turn in The White Lotus, fashioning himself like a young version of Brad Pitt. He makes us root for Dexter so hard, delivering a nuanced exploration of fragility and self-discovery. He is unforgettable.

The ride that One Day promises, shows how the tried and tested genre of romantic comedies truly work when it gives importance to time. Time to spend with Emma and Dexter as they act impulsively, and make mistakes. Time to reevaluate their tendencies along the way, without glamourizing or shunning their choices in extremes. Time for the viewer to witness the loss of innocence of the two as the years pass by. You sit with Emma and Dexter when they are by themselves and grow to know them a little better. You sit with their gaping errors in communication and scream at them to spell things out. The tune rings true. One Day is boundlessly alive to these moments of bittersweet everyday-ness of living with love in a world ravaged with so much hate. The world is a better place when Emma and Dexter find each other, some love persisting. In those moments, everything else ceases to matter. Grab tissues.

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