Review: Netflix’s One Day will break and heal your heart

When I first heard that streaming giant Netflix had created a new adaptation of David Nicholls’ bestselling novel One Day, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. 

The fated romance tale, centered around best friends Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley, continues to be one of my favourite books of all time. The 2011 film adaptation (starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway) just never quite hit the mark for me, and so I initially questioned if I wanted to see this story attempted on screen again. However, having now watched Netflix’s take on this beautiful story, I should never have worried.

One Day takes place on the same day every year – July 15, which, as Emma relays in the first episode, is also St. Swithin’s Day. Emma (Ambika Mod) and Dexter (Leo Woodall) first meet on this specific day in 1988, after their graduation ceremony from university in Edinburgh. 

Caption: Teddy Cavendish / Netflix

The pair end up spending a drunken night together, and despite clearly fancying one another, they choose not to sleep together. Instead, Em and Dex chat right into the next morning, pondering questions such as: “What do you want to be when you’re 40?”.

When they eventually leave each other’s company, they vow to remain in contact, and thus their whirlwind of a friendship (and their will-they-won’t-they romance) begins. Spanning over the next 20 years, we get to watch as Emma and Dexter weave in and out of each other’s lives, for better or worse.

Fans of the original book will be relieved to know that all of Em and Dex’s key moments have been beautifully depicted in this new series. In particular, one scene that thrilled me takes place after a disastrous dinner at a high-flying restaurant, originally chosen by Dexter. Emma storms out in a blind rage, and the two friends end up having an explosive argument. 

Credit: Ludovic Robert / Netflix

Their vicious row lasts for around six minutes on screen, allowing it to have the room to breathe that it deserves. While Emma undoubtedly has the right to be upset in this moment, you still can’t help but root for Dexter to better himself. Even though he becomes an arrogant, self-absorbed idiot, you can still clearly see his kindly, insecure nature lingering within him.

In terms of the casting, the team behind this wonderful miniseries couldn’t have picked two better leads in Mod and Woodall. Dexter is arguably the more complex character to portray on screen, and Woodall does it perfectly. For me, episode 5 is where he truly shines. Even though Dex behaves like a fool for most of it, the scene where he attempts to phone Em on a lonely train platform inevitably makes you feel devastatingly sorry for him.

Meanwhile, Mod embodies Emma Morley’s northern spirit with charm, grace and perfect comedic timing. Whether it’s finding herself locked into a dead-end relationship with a man she doesn’t love, struggling to achieve her dream career as a writer, or battling with conflicting feelings for her best friend, every single piece of Emma’s journey has a relatable aspect that will make your heart ache.

Credit: Matt Towers / Netflix

There's no doubt that Mod and Woodall are magical on screen. From the very second that they meet in Edinburgh, Em and Dex’s chemistry instantly draws you in. However, even though you’re ultimately here for their love story, the moments where they are apart are – thankfully – still just as intoxicating to watch.

So, if you’re looking for a new romance series to sink your teeth into, One Day is not to be missed. Emma and Dexter’s story is not perfect by any means; it’s often messy, heartbreaking, full of agonising twists, and it will leave you feeling breathless. But that’s exactly why you’ll love it.

One Day is available to stream now on Netflix.