Netflix UK TV review: Dash and Lily
Ivan Radford | On 20, Dec 2020
“If you want to know more about me, you’ll have to earn it…” That’s Lily (Midori Francis) writing to Dash (Austin Abrams) in Dash and Lily, Netflix’s new romantic comedy series set at Christmas. A Netflix Christmas series? It’s the next logical step for the streaming giant, having launched its own festive feature franchises, but while that might sound like a calculated cash-in, the eight-part series swiftly emerges as a uncynical delight.
The show is based on the novel by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – who also co-wrote Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – and follows an unlikely holiday affair between two teens in New York. Lily is a well-read young woman with a love of Christmas and a longing to find the right guy for her. And so she leaves a red notebook in her favourite bookshop to snare her ideal match – a book of dares that draws in Dash, a young man with a love of reading and just enough reckless courage to take up the challenge.
What ensues is, despite its kooky framing, a classic story of love letters being sent back and forth, and showrunner Joe Tracz (A Series of Unfortunate Events) captures the timeless charm of falling for someone, whether it’s in writing or in person. Hoping between locations across the festively lit metropolis, the result is a tour guide to New York on winter nights, with directors Brad Silberling (A Series of Unfortunate Events), Fred Savage (Modern Family) and Pamela Romanowsky (Riverdale) swooning over the warm, glowing locations while keeping the 20-minute episodes crisp and even.
But there’s depth between the pages of what might be a shallow fling, and Dash and Lily’s extended runtime of 4 hours gives it real room to flesh out its characters and the questions they have to navigate, more so than if this were a straight film. Can a person in real life live up to the ideal partner one has in one’s head? The answer is a tricky one, and Dash and Lily acknowledge the complexity of working out what one wants with the same affection and attention to detail the show gives to favourite Christmas movies – from debating the geography of Home Alone 2 and referencing Die Hard to a knowing selection of festive songs and soundtracks.
At its heart, meanwhile, is a pure chemistry machine, and Francis and Abrams are a lovely screen couple, with the former’s optimistic, naive sentiment conflicting and complementing the latter’s snarky philosophy. They’re supported by a strong, entertaining cast, notably Dante Brown as Dash’s friend, Boomer, and two boo-worthy alternative love interests played with smarm by Keana Marie and Glenn McCuen. While the conclusion of Dash and Lily’s courtship might be written in the seasonal stars, the charming performances and witty script make this Christmas affair one worth unwrapping. With a second book already published in the series, this four-hour sleigh ride leaves you wanting to know more about its lead couple – if a second season does get greenlit, Dash and Lily has more than earned it.
Dash and Lily is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.