One Day review: Freewheeling trip through the 1990s is one you will binge watch by the weekend

Television: Netflix’s One Day is as shallow as a night of speed dating – yet its reservoirs of charm are endless in its evocation life in your 20s

Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod in the Netflix series One Day

Boy meets girl – but boy is a spoiled toff and girl is an arty Marxist with a colossal chip on her shoulder. Such is the premise of David Nicholl’s 2009 best-seller One Day, about two 20-somethings who cross paths on the final day of college and spend their young adulthood faithfully meeting on the same date each year. It was an artisanal romcom spun from pure wish fulfilment – When Harry Met Sally crossed with Sally Rooney – and, so, sold by the crateful.

In 2011 it was adapted for the big screen and laughed into the wings in the UK because it featured Anne Hathaway attempting a Leeds burr. Didn’t anyone tell her? Only British actors are allowed to mangle the accents of other nationalities. But this new, enjoyably slight take on the story (Netflix from Thursday) avoids that pitfall by casting two relative unknowns: Ambika Mod as class-obsessed Emma and Leo Woodall as the Bertie Wooster-esque Dexter.

They meet on graduation night and tumble into bed. Crucially, they do not become intimate – and spend the next decade or so orbiting one another warily. Another version of this story would ask deep questions about friendship between men and women. Could Emma and Dexter really coast along as pals for so long. Or might their relationship fracture in the shorter term under the strain of hormones, societal expectations and the pell-mell of everyday life?

But Netflix’s One Day has no interest in being profound or pretentious – Emma would hate it – and instead leans deep into 1990s nostalgia (the story begins in 1989) before delivering a weepy ending for the ages. What a fantastic choice that is. As a freewheeling trip through the decade of rave, Britpop and absolutely no smartphones, One Day is a blast.


Crucially, the period details are spot on. A boozy picnic in a London park features the finest Cocteau Twins needle-drop in TV history; a scene in which Dexter wanders around at a rave off his face recreates the era so accurately for a moment I thought I’d banged my head and woken in the back bar at Sir Henry’s circa 1996, wondering how I’d lost my cloakroom ticket again.

Its reservoirs of charm are endless. Mod’s Emma is the perfect mix of quarter-life frustration and mordant humour. Woodall goes above and beyond to locate the seam of sadness beneath Dexter’s massively punchable exterior.

Story-wise, it is true that One Day has little going for it (until that big tear-jerker twist you’ll probably already know about from the book). Each instalment catches up with the duo as they muddle through life. Dexter becomes an annoying “yoof” TV presenter in the Terry Christian mould. Emma stumbles through various rubbish jobs, as you do at that age.

Where One Day gets it absolutely right is in its evocation of your 20s – an age fun to look back on but a bit of an ordeal to actually live through. You’re skint – or at least Emma is – and you have no idea what you should be doing (and even if you do, you have no idea how even to begin going about it).

That hazy sense of tumbling ever forward with no destination is brought wonderfully to life. And with each episode clocking in at a bite-sized 30 minutes or less, it’s all immensely watchable. Ultimately, One Day is as shallow as a night of speed dating – yet so easily does it clip by, it is a foregone conclusion that you’ll binge the entire thing by the weekend.