‘One Day’ (Limited Series) Review: Nostalgic Slow-Burn Romance

Nuha Hassan
4 min readFeb 8, 2024
Ambika Mod as Emma Morley and Leo Woodall as Dexter Mayhew. Image courtesy of Netflix.

We are never prepared for adulthood. After school, we are whisked away to prepare for the major challenges, like finding the right job, paying for groceries, rent and bills, meeting up with our friends, and finding our life’s purpose. You’ll look back to your 20s and think about all the relationships that didn’t work out and the friendships that ended because neither of you had time for each other. These are all parts of adulthood that no one prepares you for. What better way to show the intricacies of adulthood in this coming-of-age series, One Day, starring Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall?

On 15th July 1988, the night of Emma Morley (Mod) and Dexter Mayhew’s (Woodall) graduation, they meet for the first time. They flirt and go to Emma’s apartment for a one-night stand, but she asks him questions about his dreams for the future. As the star of the English department, she graduated with exceptional grades and wants to become a writer. Dexter, on the other hand, hasn’t decided what he wants to do with his life, but he reckons he’ll end up on television.

Over the next 20 years, Emma and Dexter become best friends. Each episode begins on July 15 and follows them in subsequent years as they navigate the ups and downs of their friendship. From Emma’s deadened jobs and relationships to Dexter’s highs and lows of fame and fortune, they bicker, lose touch with each other, and get back together, but never confess that they have feelings for each other.

Ambika Mod as Emma Morley and Leo Woodall as Dexter Mayhew. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Unlike the 2011 movie starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, Netflix’s One Day takes a different approach. The movie rushes through the significant events of Emma and Dexter’s lives, so the character development and plot points are not suitably structured. The series is different. Their story is shared through 14 episodes. There are enough episodes for character development, important plot points, and time to explore the pains of adulthood. The series gives them enough time to grow, make mistakes, and reflect on them as they age and mature as the story progresses. This interpretation of David Nicholls’s novel is a refreshing retelling.

However, there are a couple of hiccups that don’t quite work. One of the issues is the 14-episode structure with half an hour runtime. While the series fleshes out Emma and Dexter’s relationship and the will-they-won’t-they factor, 14 episodes are just too much to get through to the end. The romance takes so much time to blossom, and as a viewer, it might get frustrating to watch these characters brush past their feelings. The series’ pacing is a challenge, but there is never a dull moment between Emma and Dexter.

Leo Woodall as Dexter Mayhew and Ambika Mod as Emma Morley. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Another problem, or perhaps an erasure, of the series is the lack of on-screen presence of Emma’s parents. While the series focuses on Dexter’s parents, Alison (Essie Davis) and Stephen (Tim McInnerny), Emma’s parents are nowhere to be seen. She occasionally talks about her parents and calls them on the phone. Emma’s heritage is never mentioned in the series. Her parents have issues with how she decides to leave her life. It would have made sense if Emma’s parents had a significant presence in the series to explore her heritage.

Regardless, One Day is a bingeable show. There’s no denying that. While the 14-episodic series might be too long for some audiences, it is worth watching Emma and Dexter’s slow-burn romance unfold. It perfectly captures the growing pains of adulthood, friendships, loss, grief and heartbreak. Growing up can be a painful adventure, but it’s so much better with the one you love.

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