The beloved novel One Day is getting another adaptation. A Netflix UK series of the same name is set to premiere in time for Valentine’s Day, providing a fresh take on the romance between Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew 13 years after the first film adaptation. One Day spans 20 years of friendship and missed opportunities between Emma and Dexter, checking in every St. Swithin’s Day (July 15) to chronicle their careers, family lives, and, of course, their will-they-won’t-they love story, as they shift from youth to adulthood.
Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess inhabited the lead roles in a 2011 film written by the book’s author David Nicholls, which was met with mixed reviews. The Netflix series hails from screenwriter Nicole Taylor and stars Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall, utilizing 14 episodes to tell a deeper and heart-wrenching version of the popular book. So how do the two adaptations compare? Below are some of the biggest changes between the different versions of the story.
A Diverse Cast
One of the most notable updates from the 2011 film is the look of the cast. Ambika Mod, an Indian-British actress, takes on the lead role of Emma and the series bends the character’s background to fit her casting: Early on, Emma reveals that her mom is Hindu and her dad is Christian. Additionally, both Emma’s best friend Tilly and her Parisian fling Jean-Pierre are played by Black actors, reflecting the diverse world we live in.
Staying true to the novelistic format of the book, each episode of the series centers on one year in Emma and Dexter’s lives. Through that, we get a much deeper understanding of the circumstances of their diverging lives, of the banter and love between them, and of the various milestones they’re both experiencing. By nature, the film had to shorten certain chapters to fit a two-hour run time, cutting details about the first day they spent together, Emma’s affair with the headmaster at her school, her career frustrations, and Dexter’s alcoholism-induced career nosedive. The episodic version also allows the audience to get to know all of the other characters that inhabit their world on a deeper level, making for a richer viewing experience.
Emma’s Demeanor Toward Dexter
Hathaway’s Emma is much more forward with Dexter, starting on the first night they meet. They don’t necessarily know each other but have mutual friends, and while he’s waiting in her bedroom, she tells herself not to mess up this opportunity and undresses in front of him. They don’t sleep together, but her intentions were clear. Later, when they skinny dip on vacation, she comfortably strips naked in front of her best friend, breaking one of her rules for the trip.
Meanwhile, Mod’s version of the character is flat-out incredulous at not just her opportunity to hook up with Dexter on the first night, but also the fact that he noticed her at all. When they go on vacation together a few years later, she insists that he turn around during the skinny dipping experience, highlighting her lack of confidence—the growth of which is an integral part of her character arc throughout the series that the film version didn’t focus on.
Emma’s Relationship with Tilly
Tilly is an extremely minor character in the film, seen in passing at Emma’s apartment and later when she gets married. But in the TV series, her role is expanded and played to perfection by Amber Grappy. Tilly is Emma’s best friend, her confidante, and her biggest fan, and we see their relationship grow from roommates at school to adult women that check in on each other often. Tilly’s wedding in the show provides not only a backdrop for Emma and Dexter’s reconciliation, but is also a fantastic showcase for Emma’s writing via a pitch-perfect wedding speech.
While the cause of Emma’s death remains the same in both adaptations, the TV version adds in the element of rain to the fatal car accident. Mod’s Emma bikes to meet Dexter in the pouring rain when she is struck by an oncoming car while Hathaway’s version takes place in broad daylight as she bikes through an alleyway and suddenly gets hit by a truck on the other side.
Dexter’s Life After Emma
Remaining truthful to the source material, both the film and the TV show depict Dexter’s inability to cope with the loss of Emma with his increased reliance on drugs and alcohol in the years immediately after her death. But the Netflix series takes steps to also show his recovery, aided by the friends and family who loved Emma just as much as he did. In the finale, Tilly organizes a visit to Dexter on the anniversary of Emma’s death. Emma’s former boyfriend Ian, Dexter’s ex-wife Sylvie and daughter Jasmine, and Dexter’s father all show up unannounced at Dexter’s house to reminisce about Emma and remind him that he’s not alone in his grief. Ian and Dexter even share a sweet moment when Ian reveals he’s traveled three hours to be there, while the film version shows him dining at Dexter’s cafe but insinuates that he doesn’t want a friendship with Dexter. This ending is much closer to the book, where he is pieced back together by the remaining women in his life, though it’s an entirely original scene that adds needed depth and closure for all of the characters.