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Review: “One Day” broke me for the second time, but this time it hurt worse [MUSE]

Review: “One Day” broke me for the second time, but this time it hurt worse [MUSE]

Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for “One Day.”

It’s 12:56 a.m. and I just finished the new “One Day” adaptation a few hours ago. I watched the movie years ago, now I’ve watched the series; I guess next up is finally reading the book (but I really don’t know if I can take it all a third time). 

“One Day” follows the saga of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew through the course of 20 years of being strangers, friends, lovers and more. I do believe Anne Hathaway’s 2011 adaptation had its charm because, unlike some critics who believe it didn’t do justice to the source material, I had and still have the benefit of the doubt considering I haven’t read the book yet. 

Still, I don’t have to have read the novel to be touched by the way Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall portray Emma and Dexter in the new adaptation, which I do think is many steps up from the 2011 film. The way they look at each other, touch each other, talk to each other—it’s all treated with a reverence and realness that feels both otherworldly and heartbreakingly realistic at the same time. 

Emma is a painfully relatable and awkward English and history major who graduated top of their class and has aspirations to change her own corner of the world; Dexter is a privileged playboy who’s graduated with an anthropology major he has no plans of using and no real goals for the future other than to get rich and famous. They meet at university graduation and spend a day of near-romance together. The day, July 15, becomes an important date in the span of their relationship, and each episode focuses on a different year, from 1988 to the early 2000s.

Both characters are undeniably flawed and are broken down so much throughout the decades. I always value romances that go beyond the relationship and focus on the narrative of the individuals. “One Day” accomplished that, and Mod and Woodall made the characters real to me. I don’t quite understand the criticism of the acting that I’ve heard. Some say Mod’s portrayal feels stiff and uncomfortable but I feel that that’s exactly what Emma needed to be at times.

Speaking of Mod’s Emma, I absolutely adored the realistic female lead that was portrayed. While Emma was not originally Indian in the novel, Mod was the perfect choice. She herself has expressed in interviews that she was apprehensive about portraying a romantic lead in a relationship with the conventionally attractive Woodall, but by bringing in a personality that is so unconventional for a female lead, Emma becomes more of a real person. 

Their relationship feels fated, yet they had to work at it so hard. They each have reservations and insecurities that keep them from each other. Emma constantly feels like a last resort for Dexter, partially because of her own imposter syndrome; Dexter does not have the emotional maturity to realize how much Emma meant to him beyond friendship. The romance may not have been a success from their first day together, but that allowed their characters to be explored independently in a way that most romances are too rushed to accomplish. 

While the show is a drama at the core, the tension is punctuated by the humor seen in the comradery between the two characters. Their banter and comfort with each other demonstrate that their connection goes beyond romance. Their friendship is odd to everyone, and their dynamic is as fun to watch as it is stressful at times.

The creators also do an incredible job in the cinematography of their relationship. Each scene tells a different story–whether it’s character growth for an individual or the story of Emma and Dexter’s romance. The framing of their faces, their hands, and the way they interacted with each other was the most obvious to me and represented how intertwined the two were. 

Many viewers know the ending of “One Day” when they begin watching, as did I. I had even seen clips from the new adaptation that had made me tear up within seconds, yet nothing prepared me for episodes 13 and 14. While they did feel rushed compared to the rest of the series, I can understand why the creators chose the pacing that they did. 

Emma’s death, and even more so, Dexter’s life in the aftermath of it, is emotionally raw to the point that it’s difficult to watch. Dexter’s relapsed behavior on the first anniversary of her death is a painful reminder of the co-dependency a long-term relationship can create. When Dexter asks his dad how he can go on, he responds by saying, “What do you think I’ve done for the last ten years?” about Dexter’s mother’s death, I was floored. 

When Dexter talks to “Emma,” and she promises him things will change, I was reminded of everything I loved about their relationship.
And when Dexter visited all the places they went to their first July 15 together, I was brought back to their introduction and everything that followed.

This review might not make the most sense because I’m still deep in my grief for Emma and Dexter, but the point of it all is to say that “One Day” accomplishes more than romance (which I do love). It takes its time and it’s reflected in the characters. I haven’t gotten this attached to a love story in a long time, and I recommend everyone have their hearts broken right alongside me.

On this blog, members of the Carmel High School chapter of the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists (and the occasional guest writer) produce curations of all facets of popular culture, from TV shows to music to novels to technology. We hope our readers always leave with something new to muse over. Click here to read more from MUSE.

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