Is Netflix’s One Day Based On A True Story?

14 February 2024, 16:37

Viewers want to know if One Day is a true story
Viewers want to know if One Day is a true story. Picture: Netflix

By Tiasha Debray

The realistic characters in Netflix's new series have us questioning whether One Day is a true story. Read on to find out.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

If you’ve clicked on this article we can go ahead and assume that you’ve finished watching the heartbreaking masterpiece that is Netflix’s new series One Day? If not, then beware, there are spoilers ahead. The series takes the viewer on a rollercoaster of emotions and by the end, you almost have more questions than you do answers.

Why on earth is One Day called One Day? Oh and do Emma and Dexter end up together? The people asking that one definitely haven’t finished the show so we’re just going to apologise in advance.

Starring the incredibly handsome Leo Goodall and the fantastic Ambika Mod, the One Day cast did such a remarkable job of nailing the intricacies of real relationships that it has us all questioning whether One Day is based on a true story?

Watch Netflix's One Day trailer

Is One Day a true story?

Despite just how realistic the stories and characters feel, One Day is NOT based on a true story. Well, not completely.

The series adaptation is based on the best-selling novel by David Nicholls published in 2009. While David has revealed that the book is a work of fiction, it doesn’t mean the characters and the events that transpire aren’t inspired by the author’s own reality.

Who is Dexter, for example?

"A lot of my male friends had quite a wild, hedonistic time in London in the '90s, and that’s gone into Dexter’s character," David explained to Midlife at the Oasis book blog in 2010.

“When I was an actor, I worked with lots of men who had a bit of success early on, who were very good looking, who suddenly made a bit of money and who felt no embarrassment – and nor should they have done – about having a good time. I think there are probably bits of them in Dexter,” the author revealed when speaking to The Guardian in 2011.

Even his character of Emma had influences from real life like how David studied also English and Drama at university. In fact, it seems like his youth inspired a lot of unusual character quirks in Ambika’s role.

"Emma’s terrible Tex-Mex restaurant was my Fulham bistro chain, her avocado bathroom came from my bedsit in Battersea," he spoke to The Guardian.

There’s even a little easter egg in the series that hints at these parallels between reality and fiction. David’s entire idea for his novel came whilst he was studying Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy in high school and if your eagle eyes picked it out, in one episode Emma reads out a quote from the Hardy novel to Dexter.

Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod as Emma and Dexter in One Day
Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod applauded for their chemistry in One Day. Picture: Netflix

Why is One Day called One Day?

Netflix’s 14-part series is a love story that spans across 20 years, focussing on friends Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley who become lovers and go through… well life together. From the highest highs to the lowest lows.

The pair initially meet at the University of Edinburgh Graduation Ball, Emma a working-class girl with an aptitude for English and Dexter an upper-middle class boy from Oxfordshire. Their differences lead to an unlikely friendship and the actor’s performances hint at the promise of something more.

The series is called One Day because it explores the relationship between these two characters through snapshots of their lives set on the same day, every year from 1988 to 2007. That day being the 15th of July. Their lives are not always so glamorous and their relationship even less so, the realism has many views questioning whether One Day is based on a true story.

The characters of Emma and Dexter in One Day laying on floor, book in hand.
The characters of Emma and Dexter in One Day are inspired by real people. Picture: Netflix

Is Netflix's One Day true to the book?

We now know that it is based on a book, but how true does One Day stay to the book?

The Netflix adaptation has been applauded for staying quite faithful to the book. The biggest changes are the character changes accounting for Ambika Mod’s ethnicity and the way they've chosen to end the story.

In the book, after the terrible, horrible thing that happens at the end, the author throws out his ‘one day’ format and begins to reveal new moments that occurred directly after Emma and Dexter first met. However in the Netflix series, they decide to end their story with a replayed scene from the first episode of the couple’s first Christmas together.

Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod star as Dex and Emma in One Day
Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod star as Dex and Emma in One Day. Picture: Netflix

Do Emma and Dexter end up together?

If you’re too scared to watch the show because you fear a broken heart, then don’t worry, we’re here for you. But be warned, these are gonna be some pretty major spoilers.

After years of friendship, Emma and Dexter finally find each other again and confess their feelings for one another.

So yes, Emma and Dexter do end up together… kind off. After they’re honest about their feelings, we get to watch the couple be happy with one another, get married and start a life together and then one fateful 15th of July, Emma gets hit by a car as she rides her bike and tragically dies.

So to answer your question… yes? They do end up together but they also very much don’t.

That is the reason why everyone on the internet has been bawling their eyes out- welcome to the family.

Listen live to Capital, and catch up on any shows you missed, on Global Player.