Director Lone Scherfig made a delightful, Academy Award nominated movie last year with An Education. In her second film she goes to well-treaded territory: the book club film adaptation. The novel One Day is a highly successful one from what I’ve heard…but it doesn’t translate to a good movie. A highly repetitive sequence of events filled with melodrama and two leads that could have been better make One Day a bland and lifeless affair.
Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) have been best friends since college. While they don’t think a relationship would work between them they’ve had their share of ups and down. Every year on July 15th they meet up and discuss their lives together, all leading up to them finally realizing they love each other.
The concept of two people meeting on the same day every year is somewhat interesting because you see how much a person can change in just twelve months. One Day follows Emma and Dexter from 1988 to 2011 and in every year you get small differences in their personality and the world at large. The movie does a great job of making the audience understand these characters and what’s going on at the time. The fashion is ridiculously accurate and I loved the little pop culture references to give viewers a frame of reference, such as Dexter mentioning the premiere of Jurassic Park. Dexter and Emma are beyond flawed, but in the span of a year you watch them grow and come to the realizations about adulthood that can only come from sacrifice and disappointment.
For the most part the actors succeed at selling their character. Anne Hathaway is just as sweet and homespun as her past girl next door characters. The true standout though is Jim Sturgess as Dexter. He carries the bulk of the film, especially at the end, and his character goes through the most change. He’s the man who has tried to live the life he’s wanted and failed constantly. He gets the worst lumps but keeps on trying whether it’s work or in failed relationships. In a sense he’s the character you follow, not Hathaway, and Sturgess excels. He’s charming, funny, and sad throughout the movie and you really start to feel and fall for him, much like Emma does.
Sadly, there’s just too much repetition to sustain One Day’s runtime. At an hour and 48 minutes there’s only so many times you can watch Dexter and Emma have cute interactions, argue, break up and get back together. To go along with that is both characters bemoaning their lives and getting a pep talk from the other. It seemed like both Hathaway and Sturgess had rote speeches to spit out: Emma telling Dexter she loves him “but doesn’t like him,” while Dexter tells Emma she’s fantastic and should do more with her life. Either the book is incredibly short or the screenwriter just didn’t know when to say enough is enough. The side character are all rushed through, particularly Patricia Clarkson as Dexter’s mother who has two scenes and dies off-camera. In fact most of the more interesting events are simply talked about as having happened, show us! Hathaway’s accent has been lampooned in past reviews but it really is bad, simply an American’s cheap parody of an English accent although Hathaway’s accent dips into every European country and parts of Australia at times.
One Day is a trite, bland romance film that goes from one tortured event to the next. The characters force themselves apart to the point that you want to hit them and say “either hook up or shut up.” Sturgess is fantastic but not enough to keep the film from devolving into a sequence of events that just repeats.