“Dash and Lily”: Early Christmas Present or Chunk of Coal?
Reading Time: 3 minutes
It’s that time of year again: sleigh bells are ringing; candy canes are being excessively consumed; and snow is finally falling! Okay, so maybe the Christmas spirit isn’t at an all-time high this year due to obvious circumstances. Many of us won’t be seeing relatives or friends like we usually would, and for some of us, Christmas plans consist of staying home and eating ourselves into a sugar coma. Luckily, Netflix has us covered with its new rom-com, “Dash and Lily.”
This show was adapted from the young adult novel by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, following the lives and blossoming romance between Dash (Austin Abrams) and Lily (Midori Francis) in New York City over Christmas break. Their relationship sparks at the Strand bookstore, where Lily leaves a red notebook with a dare in one of the shelves in hopes of finding somebody to connect with on Christmas. Dash finds this notebook while browsing and decides to take her up on her challenge. Thus begins a series of dares and written communication through the shared notebook. The dares that Dash and Lily give each other verge on the bizarre. From making mochi with Japanese grandmothers to attending a Jewish rock concert, there is never a boring moment with the two teenagers. Each dare serves a purpose, changing the way that either Dash or Lily views the world. As their relationship develops and they open up to each other however, the duo has to face issues that result from the transition of their relationship from writing to real life.
The two characters are an unexpected pair. Dash is a pessimist with family problems, a real-life Scrooge; in contrast, Lily is an eternal optimist and an extreme lover of the holiday season, who goes caroling and wears ugly Christmas sweaters. Despite these glaring differences, they share a common struggle of trying to fit in. While their dynamic is a bit cliché, there is something endearing about their relationship—once you get past the cheesiness factor, that is.
While the pair’s bond is charming, the timeline of their romance leaves something to be desired. Dash falls head over heels for Lily almost immediately after finding the red notebook, and from there, their relationship escalates in the span of a week. The progression isn’t very realistic and only contributes to the tooth-aching sweetness of their relationship. If you’re a fan of the overly saccharine, then this show is definitely for you. For everybody else however, starting the series might be difficult. And while Abrams and Francis play their characters well, they lack a certain physical chemistry, likely due to the fact that they don’t meet face-to-face until the last two episodes. Despite this, I could appreciate how their budding relationship propel their respective character development: Dash and Lily push each other out of their shells and bring out the best in each other.
And the show sports a diverse cast, with Lily’s mother’s half of the family being Japanese and her classmates coming from a wide range of backgrounds. Unfortunately, these side characters don’t have much presence apart from pushing Lily and Dash together, as they mainly facilitate the passing of the notebook between the two lovebirds.
While the characters themselves might be unmemorable, the show’s setting is what really brings it to life. “Dash and Lily” offers a realistic depiction of New York City, complete with grumbling passersby, and strays away from the usual touristy spots like Times Square. Dash and Lily explore various nooks and crannies of the city. The show even includes references and spots that I recognized, like the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights and of course, the Strand bookstore. The familiarity of the setting adds to the cozy and warm feel of the show.
“Dash and Lily” also excels at bringing the Christmas spirit to life. Christmas trees, wreaths, lights, mistletoe, even Santa Claus and his elves are all tucked into the background, and it is always snowing. The soundtrack is atmospheric, consisting mostly of classic Christmas songs like “All I Want For Christmas Is You”(1994). There’s no better time for some Christmas cheer, especially considering the many challenges that 2020 has brought.
To no one’s surprise, Dash and Lily are able to overcome their initial disagreement, get together, and presumably live happily ever after. It isn’t the most unique ending, but it’s a satisfying conclusion nonetheless, much like the series as whole. While “Dash and Lily” doesn’t attempt to subvert the usual rom-com tropes, it certainly fulfills its purpose. It’s a fun, cute love story told with a wintery backdrop, and I’d recommend it to anyone in search of some holiday cheer!