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Dash and Lily poster

Dash & Lily

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Why it’s worth your time:

If all the usual formulaic holiday movies are starting to blend into each other, here’s something refreshingly different. Dash & Lily is a Christmas love story with a charming YA twist. This eight-episode series has just the right mix of sweet and bitter as it follows two bookish Manhattan teens through the highs and lows of the season. Running at just under a half an hour each, the episodes are like delicious little confections. And it’s hard to stop after only one.

Anyone who’s ever been a nerdy, awkward teen — hoping to find that one person who really gets you — should recognize something of themselves in the main characters. Jaded Dash (Austin Abrams) loathes everything about Christmas (as one half of every potential couple in a holiday film typically does), while cheery Lily (Midori Francis) wholeheartedly embraces it. They communicate only through messages written in a single red notebook, which they trade back and forth without ever making direct contact. Although they’re constantly pushing each other out of their comfort zones, it’s a relatively safe way to get to know someone without fear of face-to-face rejection.

That doesn’t mean they don’t face the prospect of heartbreak, though. While the trajectory of the story follows some of the usual conventions on the route toward a happily ever after, there are enough unpredictable twists along the way to make it feel unique. That’s especially nice to see in a genre known for sticking to a pretty strict formula. It helps that the youthful leads both give authentic, sincere performances and are backed up by a cast of likable supporting players. There’s no shortage of delightful holiday moments here. It’s enough to put a smile on the face of even the grumpiest Grinch.

It’s also worth mentioning that Nick Jonas was an executive producer on the series. And yes, he and his band do make an appearance at one point. Music plays an important part in the show, in fact. The excellent soundtrack is packed with remixes of traditional favorites and modern classics like Joni Mitchell’s “River” and The Pogues “Fairytale of New York.” Like a string of twinkling lights winding through a whimsically decorated tree, it makes everything a little more magical.

The takeaway:

Dash & Lily isn’t like any other Christmas romance you’re likely to see this year. It’s full of heart and holiday cheer, but tempers that optimism with the message that sometimes the ideal we have in our heads, whether it be the perfect holiday or the perfect person, doesn’t always match reality. Of course, sometimes reality is even better.

Watch it with:

The importance of support from family and friends, especially around the holidays, is a strong theme in this series. So you’ll feel cozy sharing it with them. But like a good book — which is fitting because it’s based on one — it could also be nice to curl up under a blanket with a warm beverage and enjoy all by yourself.

Worth noting:

Given that this is a teen love story, it’s pretty wholesome overall. There is some teenage drinking and an instance of heavy intoxication, but not without severe consequences.

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