Looking back on the ill-fated adaptation starring Jim Sturgess and an impossibly miscast Anne Hathaway, it's so clear to see how that version of 'One Day' failed and this one succeeds.
For one, Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod both have far more screen chemistry together. They're both English actors, their characterisations of Dexter and Emma feels more alive and sharpened, and here's the key - we, the audience, actually have time to get to know them. For those unfamiliar, the original novel by David Nicholls follows two lifelong friends through the course of their lives from early adulthood to mid-life over twenty-odd years, all of the episodes picking up on the same day - July 15th. Some of the time, they're together, other times they're apart. In each episode, we drop into where they're at.
Dexter, for example, spends the early part of the series enjoying his good looks, his natural charisma, and a hedonistic lifestyle as he becomes a minor celebrity in '90s Britain working as a television presenter. Emma, on the other hand, stumbles and meanders through acting, writing, awful service jobs, before she begins to find her feet by her late twenties. Of course, as if often the case with these things and in life generally, there's a peak and a trough for both of them and it happens at opposite points in their lives. As Dexter reels from a personal loss and his habits become unwieldy, Emma comes into her own and finds her flow as a writer. Both Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod have enough depth in their performances to handle all the ups and downs without necessarily giving into simplistic characterisation. That said, the script does have a vague whiff of moralising about it, not to mention in later episodes where it almost seems to suggest one of them is merely supporting the other than being equals.
Yet, in spite of all this, 'One Day' is a well-crafted, nostalgic waltz through the nineties and through the lives of two wholly understandable and recognisable characters. Indeed, 'One Day' is one of the few examples of a story that really benefits from a miniseries rather than a truncated movie. It makes the later episodes have that much more heft and tone to them, while making the earlier episodes seems bittersweet on reflection. There's also a snappy wit to it too, with Ambika Mod's comedy background serving her well throughout the series. The supporting cast too also heightens their performances, with names like Joely Richardson, Toby Stephens, and 'Blackadder' alum Tim McInnerney dropping in for various episodes with great success.
There are more than a couple of issues with 'One Day', particularly with one or two episodes feeling wholly redundant, but at thirty minutes a pop, the whole thing has a kind of lightness to it. Even if some of the episodes seem to have little to do other than to blast out a few forgotten hits here and there, the characters and the lives they live are so rich in detail that it's enough just to be in their company for a spell.
All episodes are available on Netflix now.