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The TV adaptation of One Day outperformed the movie with tactics like gobby negging, intense sexual tension, and a bum-flashing shower scene.
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The TV adaptation of One Day outperformed the movie with tactics like gobby negging, intense sexual tension, and a bum-flashing shower scene.

Tensions were high when Netflix announced a One Day TV series back in 2021. David Nicholls’ bestselling 2009 romance novel had already been butchered with an Anne Hathaway-led film just a decade earlier as far as most fans were concerned. Could another adaptation save its legacy? Or, considering this is the streamer that can so easily destroy a classic (Persuasion, All the Light We Cannot See), was this the final chop?

After spending hours binge-watching and crying uncontrollably, I couldn’t help but wonder who Leo Woodall was dating. But with the release of One Day just a few weeks ago, my worries were put to rest. The show has already become the second most popular on the site this year, receiving praise from critics. And I’m sure by now you’ve already watched all 14 episodes (if not, what are you even talking about?).

The enthusiasm of the fanbase has reignited, propelling the book to the top of the charts once again. However, what sets the TV adaptation apart and what caused the film to fail? Could it be that our perception of the film, viewed through a nostalgic lens, is not as negative as we recall?

For those who are unfamiliar, the tale commences in the year 1988 when two classmates spend the evening together following their graduation in Edinburgh. Dexter Mayhew is affluent, well-liked, attractive, and a bit foolish, whereas Emma Morley is intelligent, satirical, and hails from the north with socialist views. Although they do not engage in sexual activity, they form an unexpected bond, and we follow their journey over the following 20 years on the annual anniversary of their meeting: July 15, known as St Swithin’s Day.

Hathaway has often been the primary target of criticism in the film, though unfairly. The decision to cast Hollywood actress Hathaway as Emma Morley, who is portrayed as being from Leeds, is comparable to casting Austin Butler in a remake of Kes. Despite attempting to perfect the accent by watching Emmerdale, it fell short. However, regardless of the accent, Hathaway’s remark about her first London flat smelling like “onions and disappointment” is quite comical. Moreover, the filmmakers also resorted to the cliché tactic of giving Hathaway’s character bushy hair and glasses in an effort to make her seem more “normal,” a tactic previously seen in The Princess Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada.

Not off the hook … Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in the 2011 film adaptation of One Day

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However, we cannot ignore Jim Sturgess, whose aristocratic and exaggerated movements and exhalations failed to deeply impact our emotions. Did you completely forget that he portrayed Dexter Mayhew in the original performance? End of discussion.

Patricia Clarkson deserves recognition for her outstanding portrayal as Dex’s incredible mother, while Romola Garai’s role as his “what is a joke?” girlfriend Sylvie is truly perfection.

In Hathaway and Sturgess’s defence, the film’s real problem was time. Director Lone Scherfig managed to squeeze the key scenes into 148 minutes – rubbing in the suncream on the beach, that “those who can’t, teach” line over dinner. But this is the slowest burning romance on record. It takes 20 years to get it on – an almost lethal case of sexual tension. That first night the chalk-and-cheese pair meet is crucial. But within five minutes, Dex goes back to Emma’s when everyone else has gone home after the lamest looking graduation ever because “yeah, might as well”, they have a brief hot fumble, a Tracy Chapman tape puts him off and they just become friends.

The television show observed and gained knowledge.

The casting features up-and-coming British actors, shining a spotlight on Woodall’s lively performance as Dex, and her ability to captivate the audience. Meanwhile, Mod portrays Emma with a perfect balance of vulnerability and wit. This genuine portrayal may be attributed to the significance of her casting, as she has spoken about struggling with feelings of inadequacy due to cultural beauty standards.

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in the show.View image in fullscreen

When the two unexpectedly encounter each other at their graduation party – a lively event where one would like to have a beer – they share a special moment. At her place later on, they exchange playful insults and jokes, but also experience uncomfortable silences. Despite her bold demeanor, they don’t engage in sexual activity due to her nerves. However, their chemistry is not based on passion, but on curiosity and contrast – which I believe is the intention. As the morning light streams in, signaling the end of a night they wish would never end, Emma shares that the sound of blackbirds makes her anxious, feeling as though she has done something regrettable. Dexter smirks and says, “That’s why I love it.” Wow, I’m hooked.

Rewording cannot be provided.

There are all the finer details that make it, too: Dexter with a fag hanging from his lip in every other scene. The excruciating moment Dex spots Emma checking him out in the shower on holiday (you can feel her horror)! The nostalgic soundtrack you want to dance and sob to afterward.

It was clear from the start that this book would make an excellent streaming series. Although we may have felt guilty, we couldn’t resist watching the film adaptation. However, it’s worth noting that Anne Hathaway has an Oscar, not the character Bernard’s watch. What we really desire is to see every moment of Emma and Dex’s lives.

Source: theguardian.com