one day netflix series tv show review movie comparison

Did We Need Another One Day Remake?

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I spent the last 48 hours watching 14 episodes of a story I’ve seen on screen before. 

Not only have I seen it at the movies, but I’ve also poured over pages of Emma and Dexter in book form, so I’m guessing across all three mediums I’ve spent an entire week getting to know these two. That’s more time than I’ve spent with any of my aunties in the last decade, so you can bet I feel fired up enough to have an opinion or two about them.

One Day started its life as a best-selling fiction book by David Nicholls. One I plucked from the shelves in my local Waterstones (the British equivalent of a Dymocks but with more of a musty smell to it). The book follows the lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew over a near twenty-year period, revisiting them once a year on the same day. It’s a genius way to lay out a book. It’s all pace and intrigue and you rush through the chapters eager to find out when Emma and Dexter finally get together – because, it’s a romance, of course. And a combination of long-term lusting with a will-they-won’t-they, friends-to-enemies-to-lovers trope is pure ecstasy to a chick-lit loyalist like me.

The book is lovely and heartbreaking and entertaining and… I have a confession: I was convinced I was Emma Morley. 

You see, in the book, she’s a chubby, bubbly girl from Yorkshire whose happy place is on a stroll up Arthur’s Seat, or with her head in a book, or dancing like a complete goober with her best friends on a daft night out. You could write the exact same description for me on a missing persons ad. We are the same girl, trust me. 

So when I heard that there was a movie adaptation of One Day coming out, I was more excited than I should have been because I was certain I was about to be asked to play Emma Morley. Sure, I was only 17 years old when the movie went into production and I had zero acting experience, but that didn’t matter because I’ll remind you once more, I was Emma Morley. 

You can imagine the guttural scream that exited my body when I read that they had cast Anne Hathaway in the film. 

Yes, a tall, skinny, serious American was going to be playing me, playing Emma Morley in One Day

one day movie anne hathaway

Image credit: Random House Films and Film4 Productions

I was distraught, but not so damaged that I didn’t go to the cinema to see if Anne Hathaway had ruined everything. Spoiler alert: she had.

Now, I don’t want to feed into the we-all-hate-Anne-Hathaway beast that roams around the internet because I think she’s a lovely lass and quite a decent actor, but this was absolutely not the role for her. She spoke in interviews about how she had voice training to “nail the Yorkshire accent” and also watched episodes of Emmerdale to immerse herself in Yorkshire-isms, but unfortunately, that just resulted in Anne speaking with a terribly posh English accent for 98% of the movie and then a rogue northern note would flop out of her mouth mid-sentence and scare the heck out of anyone watching who’s ever lived further north than Manchester. 

It was a disaster. Beyond the awful northern cosplay, Anne playing Emma also made no sense physically. There’s a running theme in the book that Dexter would never go out with Emma because he dates models and actors and Emma is too ‘normal’ and plain to be his girlfriend, but that’s a really hard narrative to grasp when Emma is played by an actor of model proportions. 

After the three to four business days it took me to mentally process the movie adaptation, I sort of forgot about the whole saga. I pretended Dexter and Emma didn’t exist anymore, and I cracked on with my life. 

But then Netflix took a swing at my psyche. They were doing a TV series adaption of One Day. Fuck.  

The ads showed Leo Woodall (the complicated chav from White Lotus) as Dexter Mayhew and Ambika Mod (who already broke my heart in This Is Going To Hurt) as Emma Morley. While I was a little shaken to see this story back on screens, I wasn’t mad at the casting. This made more sense. Leo can definitely play a posh boy who inherited more charisma than brain cells, and Ambika has the perfect dry Emma Morley humour in the bag. 

So when the series hit Netflix in a 14-episode plonk, I dove right in. And it was (nearly) perfect.

Having a series span two decades with the same actors playing the lead characters is a tricky feat, but the show actually pulled it off. They presented late ’80s university culture just as well as the fresh-graduate migration to London, with perfect costuming, set and scripting. There were some proper laugh-out-loud moments and really honest portrayals of friendship, romance, real-life every day relationships and heartbreak. On that note: episode 13 will emotionally rip you in two. You’ve been warned.

The chemistry between this Emma and Dexter is faultless. Especially in the ‘years’ where they grow apart, Ambika and Leo move the dynamic into a really sturdy friendship space – something that the movie adaption never nailed. You kinda always thought Anne Hathaway’s Emma was a bit horny for Dexter, but in this series, the platonic moments are so strong. To the point where I (an absolute sucker for a rom-com) almost enjoyed the years that Dexter and Emma were definitely ‘off’ more. 

Also, the music is incredible. The score is matched to the time period that Emma and Dexter are in during the series, so there are some ’80s classics, ’90s bangers and iconic noughties tunes that I haven’t thought about in years. The best music moment for me? When Emma’s best friend, Tilly, walks down the aisle to N-Trance’s ‘Set You Free’.

one day netflix wedding song scene

Image credit: Netflix

Okay, now I have to tackle my ‘nearly perfect’ statement from before. Here are the bits the One Day Netflix series didn’t do as well. 

They referred to Emma being a South Asian woman, but it wasn’t really explored beyond a brief moment in episode one. I think that adding more of a conversation around interracial relationships and showing how Dexter’s super-conservative family would have reacted in the ’80s to Emma would have made the show even more powerful and updated the original text in a great way. 

The show also didn’t age the two characters very well. I know there’s a terrible track record of this on screen (I’m looking directly at you, aged Ron Weasley in the final Harry Potter film), but there could have been more effort put into the aging of the leads. Dexter does a little better, getting creative with haircuts and whacking some dad jumpers on him towards the end, but Emma looks 25 years old from beginning to end. 

And finally, my last little rant: Emma’s accent was still a bit shit.

I’m really sorry to say that, especially as Ambika did a whole lot better than Anne on the Yorkshire front, but she still skewed posher than Emma from Leeds is meant to be. Which makes total sense – Ambika grew up in Hatfield, in Hertfordshire (it’s even impossible to say those place names not in a posh accent), so she’s a southerner and very well-spoken. She hit some of Yorkshire drawl well, but a lot of her lines snuck back down south. 

Despite the accent not being a 10/10, I’m happy to say that I now believe that I was never the right gal to be cast as Emma Morley. This role was meant for Ambika Mod. She’s absolutely meant to be a leading lady, and she emotionally crucified me (in the best way) playing Emma.

So, did the world need another adaptation of One Day? I would 100% have said no before I devoted a weekend to getting to know this Emma and Dex, but now? I have no doubt: this is the adaptation we all needed. 

Image credit: Netflix.