TV Reviews

Dash and Lily is Christmas rom-com gold

Multiple friends and colleagues have been on me to watch Virgin River. They know I love a rom-com and they all thought I’d love it. So with the 2nd season coming out this week, I thought I’d tuck in.

Bad call. Absolute trash. Really sorry – not my thing.

Similarly, you might be surprised to find out that I have a really hard time with “Hallmark” movies. I have multiple friends who work on these movies – and there is an art to making them. I know a lot of people who love them. They are just not my thing. They are too predictable, too cheesy, and I want something with a slightly higher production budget.

So this is how I found myself starting to watch Dash and Lily. I was feeling like a rom-com, I was feeling like something Christmasy and with the snowstorm last Sunday, I wanted something I could really sink my teeth into. Virgin River failed, I had watched Last Christmas (it was meh) on the Saturday night, and after flipping through a few different shows on Netflix, I ended up pessimistically picking Dash and Lily. I did not think I’d love it.

Well – it was perfect. Absolutely my thing. I watched all eight episodes in one sitting.

Here’s the show in a nutshell: Dash, a cranky-angsty anti-Christmas teen boy, finds a red notebook in his favourite bookstore that sends him on an unexpected Christmas quest. The author of the quest and owner of the notebook – Lily, an awkward-optimistic Christmas-loving teen girl. The two start corresponding through this notebook and a holiday pen-pal romance ensues.

It feels like a Christmas To All The Boys I Loved Before. Lily and Lara-Jean would be friends. They’d bake cupcakes together, read good books, and talk about how wonderful it would be to date a real-life boy! In high school, I would have hung out with these girls. Let’s put it this way – I cannot tell you how much I would have wanted to hide my own red notebook. Having romantic rendezvous at a bookstore? Sign me up!

The cast is phenomenal. I love a show with up-and-comers and this show has some actors that I’d put on a ‘ones to watch’ list. Obviously, the two titular characters are fantastic roles – and their actors did a fabulous job. In my opinion, Midori Francis (Lily) is a breakout star. I adored her in this. There was a lot of critical chatter about how the Lily character could have been insufferable and annoying but Francis created a realistic character we wanted to root for. I instantly loved her. On the flip side, it did take me a little while to get into Austin Abrams as Dash. Abrams has a recurring role on This Is Us as teenage Kate’s abusive boyfriend – and he is very good in that role. So the switch from ‘he’s such a creep’ to ‘oh he’s cute!’ took a minute. But he did it – which impresses me. Again, Dash could have also been a ‘poor little rich boy’ – but I felt like the character had depth, and I’d give that kudos to Abrams. I’m very curious to see where his career might go.

The supporting cast is also excellent – but in many ways, the biggest star of the show is New York City.

I think it’s universally accepted that there is something magical about New York at Christmas time and this series captured it so nicely. Almost too nicely. I found myself tearing up, thinking back to busy-city Christmases past, and feeling slightly sad that it won’t happen this year. However – this gives me a bit more time to plan where I will hide my own notebook…

I’ve been thinking about something Matthew McConaughey said on his recent press tour about what makes a good rom-com. I tried to find the specific quote but I can’t seem to find it so I’ll sum it up: the best rom-coms have a secret that the audience knows but the characters don’t. For example, in his classic How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – we knew Andy was trying to lose the guy and we also knew Ben was trying to win the girl, but neither Andy nor Ben knew the other person’s secret. That was where the joy was for the audience. For the nerds in the room – we call this “Dramatic irony“.

Dash and Lily has this x-factor. We know who Dash is and we also know who Lily is – but neither character has a clue who the other is and it works so well. It could be predictable – but it’s just really smart. Both characters are interesting and engaging and while they have very little screen time together – you see how they fit into each other’s lives and it’s just so adorable and the payoff is so great.

From a shelf-life perspective, I love that it feels current but because the main form of communication between our couple is a notebook it’s timeless. Her quirky handmade clothing and his hipster style could be trendy in any era. It just feels like something I could watch in 20 years and still be good.

All that said – if I was to give it a critique, it feels too perfect. Like hello – no way you meet Nick Jonas and find the love of your life at 17? I just don’t buy it. But I’m willing to suspend reality and live in the Dash and Lily fantasy because it’s just so cute.

Overall, it’s a really lovely show and an easy watch when things are tough.

There are only eight – 25 minute episodes – so it’s very bingeable. Grab a huge mug of hot chocolate, light some candles, and get cozy with a fuzzy blanket. Hit play. You won’t regret it.

Dash and Lily is now Streaming on Netflix.

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