wed 22/09/2021

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking | reviews, news & interviews

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking

John Marrs's novel transformed out of all recognition

Eureka! James (Dimitri Leonidas) and Rebecca (Hannah Ware) create the ultimate dating app

Readers of John Marrs’s 2017 novel The One should probably look away now, since Netflix’s dramatisation of the story bears scant resemblance to the book.

The basic premise – that a corporation has invented a method of DNA testing which can match individuals with their perfect partner who “you are genetically guaranteed to fall in love with”– remains, along with a group of characters who experience the repercussions of this techno-dating app, but their identities and storylines have all been reinvented for the TV incarnation.

By and large, this is not a good thing. The One has a chilly futuristic sheen to it, with everybody living and working in buildings that look like advertisements from a team of deluxe architects (locations include London’s Barbican and the new Kings Cross development). Unfortunately the characters feel semi-frozen too, radiating little in the way of human warmth. They tend to deliver their lines with a blank matter-of-factness, as if this was a read-through rather than the finished product.

The problem is epitomised by the lead character Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware). It’s she who, in partnership with fellow PhD scientist James Whiting (Dimitri Riviera Leonidas), created the technology behind “The One”, as they call it (James supposedly got the idea from studying the behaviour of fire ants). Rebecca is ruthless and driven, and her steely single-mindedness has powered growth of The One and made it a spectacular global success. Snag is, Rebecca is also charmless and unscrupulous, treating even her so-called friends with supercilious contempt. Her burly minder Connor (Diarmaid Murtagh) never leads her side, since threats and intimidation may be required at any time.The fact that she stole a huge DNA database from the computer of her friend Ben (Amir El-Masry), with whom she lived before The One hit the big time, threatens to be the fatal flaw in her masterplan. The theft prompts a ferocious falling-out with Ben, and Ben’s unexplained violent death ticks away under the narrative as a police investigation gradually closes in on the truth.

Aside from the thriller-esque trappings, The One aims to illustrate how disastrous an invention like this could prove to be by showing us its effects on the subsidiary characters. Hannah (Lois Chimimba) is in a seemingly happy relationship with husband Mark (Eric Kofi-Abrefa, pictured above with Chimimba), but idiotically gets Mark’s DNA analysed without telling him. When the results match him with Megan (Pallavi Sharda), chaos predictably erupts.

Police detective Kate Saunders (Zöe Tapper) has lovely hair, and seems to spend more time organising her social life than doing any detecting. When The One matches her with a Spanish woman, Sophia (Jana Pérez), it drops her into a farcically complicated tangle of secrets and lies, about which it’s difficult to care one way or the other.

Rebecca herself pretends to have been matched with Ethan (Wilf Scolding), but he’s a heartbroken gay man with no discernible personality and is mere window-dressing for Rebecca’s public appearances. Rebecca’s true “One” proves to be Matheus (Albano Gerónimo), a surfer-bum from Tenerife with a sleazy con-man for a brother. Let’s face it, that’s never gonna work.

There’s a good idea in here somewhere, but this isn’t the TV treatment it deserved.

Comments

If you're thinking of watching this series, please don't let this rather one-dimensional review put you off. The characters are all very well drawn, with some excellent acting. Hannah Ware's gradual movement to the dark side is particularly well conveyed, and there's plenty of human warmth from the other characters. Fascinating story line too, particularly if you've read Yuval Harari's Homo Deus, according to which this kind of 'matching' is in reality not far off!

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