Dash & Lily

Dash & Lily

Dept. of Being Young and in Love


My quest to find some worthwhile holiday cheer continues. Because if there’s one thing we need in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, it’s the hope and promise offered by great a Christmas movie. Look, I know it’s early days yet, I know there is still more than a month worth of content still to come, and I know that this isn’t technically a “Christmas movie,” but Dash & Lily is exactly what I was looking for.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Now, I’m a sucker for bookish love stories. I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my favourite rom-coms of all time is Serendipity. (Okay, maybe I’m a little ashamed.) That utterly ridiculous movie, in which John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale decide to leave their love story in the hands of fate, might very well be objectively dumb, but I have a soft spot for Gabriel García Márquez and coincidences, both of which Serendipity has in droves.

Despite being far better than Serendipity ever was (and not just because part of it is set in The Strand, in what is my favourite bookstore in the whole wide world), Dash & Lily does seem to find some inspiration in that movie. The role of kismet. The flips of fortune. Only it subverts those rom-com tropes and utilises them in a way that’s fresh, and fun, and joyful.

Dash & Lily

Dash and Lily are two New York teenagers, left to fend by themselves while their parents fly off to spend Christmas in other parts of the world. Her parents are on their second honeymoon in Fiji. His mum is off to find herself in Hawaii, while his dad goes skiing with yet another young, blonde conquest. She is a hopeless romantic. He thinks Christmas is the most “detestable time of the year.” And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that all of this sounds like every other New York romance you’ve ever seen. And it is. Mostly.

There aren’t many variations of the boy meets girl (or boy meets boy, or girl meets girl) love story. And you’ve most likely seen them all. But there is something about the way this one is told, with humour, and honesty, and just a little wishful thinking, that makes it a complete and utter delight.

Dash & Lily

The series opens at The Strand, where Dash discovers a red notebook, sandwiched between two copies of J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey,” that challenges him to solve a word puzzle, before daring him to do a dramatic reading of the Joni Mitchell song “River” to everyone who is shopping there. Dash is intrigued enough to play along, his inner romantic hoping that it will lead to someone who is equally as bookish as he is.

And so their Christmas adventure begins. It’s an epistolary journey that’s both a scavenger hunt as well as a series of citywide dares that Dash and Lily need to complete in order to prove to each other that it’s worth meeting in person. Their socially distanced courtship takes them all over the city, from The Strand, to Macy’s, to Grand Central station at the break of dawn, to a mochi making class, to an underground Jewish punk concert.

There are hints of Cinderella and Notting Hill, with touches of Say Anything and “The Catcher in the Rye.” Dash isn’t quite as miserable a bastard as Holden Caulfield, but you can see all the ways in which that character inspired this one. There is also something refreshingly old fashioned about the way this love story is told. The teenagers that we meet here aren’t constantly on their phones and obsessively scrolling through Instagram. They’re smart, and well-read, and erudite, without being annoying. They hang out with their friends and have seemingly genuine conversations with one another. It feels like a throwback, and a welcome one, not just to a time before the pandemic, but to a time when most of our interactions were actually done in person.

Dash & Lily

The joy of Dash & Lily really does boil down to its two leads. Midori Francis and Austin Abrams are absolutely enchanting. And despite not sharing any screen time for about five and a half episodes, the both of them somehow manage to channel an intense and believable chemistry. All we have are their individual voices as they read each other’s notebook entries, but that is more than enough for us to be convinced that this burgeoning romance is something real.

Podcast - Website Banner Ad 3

If there’s one downer about this series, it is completely unintentional. The Strand, that century old New York institution at which Dash and Lily’s romantic adventure kicks off, is yet another business facing extinction, its business decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. Seeing it here in all of its glory, was a sad reminder of how nothing may ever be the same.

Dash & Lily

Dash & Lily is weaponised YA fare. It’s based on the bestselling book Dash & Lily’s Book Of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist fame). It’s executive produced by Nick Jonas (of being married to Priyanka Chopra fame). And the back half of the season is directed by Fred Savage, who grew up on The Wonder Years, who gave us great YA long before it was even called YA.

Think of this as the anti-Emily in Paris. Where that series felt like it was written by that Steve Buscemi cool kid meme, this one is clever, and well observed, and full of heart. Where that series painted its youth with such an obnoxious brush, the young people in Dash & Lily are witty, and charming, and full of life. Theirs is a love story worth cheering for.

Dash & Lily
Netflix, Season 1, 8 episodes
Creator: Joe Tracz
Directors: Brad Siberling, Pamela Romanowsky, and Fred Savage
Writers: Joe Tracz, Carol Barbee, Lauren Moon, Harry Tarre, and Rachel Cohn
Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, and James Saito

Dash & Lily is now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

Previous Story

His Dark Materials, Season 2

Episode 48
Next Story

The Goggler Podcast #48: Puteri Gunung Ledang

Latest from TV