In Netflix’s ‘One Day,’ love comes in the form of friendship for Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, who spend years processing their feelings for each other. The show follows their journey over the years, picking one day in each year for the next twenty years to tell us what they’re up to at the time. They experience many highs and lows, not only in their relationship but also in their personal and professional lives, and are shaped by the happy events and the tragedies. The entire show takes place on July 15, and going back to the same date again and again makes one wonder why this day was chosen. Why July 15 and not some other day in the year? Why only July 15 and not a different day each year? What’s so special about it? SPOILERS AHEAD
St Swithin’s Day is the Cornerstone of One Day
‘One Day’ is based on the book of the same name by David Nicholls. The idea for the story germinated in his mind from a line he’d read in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ years ago. The line also appears in the show in the final episode when Emma reads it out to Dexter.
It says: “She suddenly thought one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that of her own death, when all these charms would have disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there. When was it?”
To a young Nicholls, the idea of a “death date” seemed extremely interesting, and decades later, when he started thinking about writing ‘One Day,’ he returned to that idea and decided to structure the story in a way that it takes place on the same day for the next twenty years or so.
Once it was decided that the story would unfold yearly on the same day, Nicholls had to pick a date. He didn’t want to pick a holiday like Christmas or New Year’s. He wanted the day to be like just another day in the life of his characters, something unsuspecting, something entirely ordinary. And yet, it had to be something memorable enough for the characters to mark the date it. He referenced Groundhog Day, which is not exactly a huge day or even a holiday for anyone, but people know it enough to remember it.
After much thought, the author decided to mark Swithin’s Day as the date that his characters would return to each other. It turned out to be a perfect choice for a number of reasons. First, it fulfilled the criteria of not being a huge day but being memorable enough. As Dexter mentions, it is said that if it rains on Swithin’s Day, it will rain for the entire month. If it doesn’t rain, the whole month will see a dry spell.
With it falling on July 15, Swithin’s Day also gave Nicholls the starting point of his story: the graduation night. It made sense for Emma and Dexter to start the rest of their lives on their last day in the university, and it would also be eventful enough for them to remember the date they met, but it would not turn into a big holiday, and for the most part, it could serve as just another date in their lives.
The ordinaryness of the date also played into the “death day” concept from Hardy’s novel, deeply embedding the date in Dexter’s mind only after Emma’s death. Because it checked all the boxes and helped elevate the story and the characters, it didn’t make sense for Nicholls to think any further. St. Swithin’s Day, July 15, became the date when Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew’s story would begin and end.
Read More: Netflix’s One Day Timeline, Explained