One Day - Review
Review by Jack Foley
IN BOOK form, David Nicholls’ One Day is one of the must-reads of the moment and is beloved by a nation of smitten romantics. The film version, adapted by Nicholls himself, faces an uphill struggle to be viewed in the same favourable way.
Admittedly, it boasts a good choice of director in Lone Scherfig – who did such a memorable job with An Education – but the casting of Anne Hathaway in one of the two central roles has already caused a lot of bewilderment and outrage among possessive fans.
Unfortunately, the actress does little to prove the doubters wrong and even to someone who hasn’t yet read Nicholls’ novel (me) she seems wrong for the part.
The story begins on the day in 1988 that Emma Morley (Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) begin a friendship that will subsequently last a lifetime.
It then follows them over the next 20 years, dropping in on key moments in their lives and catching up with their relationship on the same day – July 15 – each year.
The ensuing journey will test each of them as Dexter, in particular, finds his life going off the rails as he battles fame, infidelity, drug abuse and more besides before realising where his heart really lies.
Scherfig’s film, while deeply flawed, isn’t a complete write-off, even though it will almost certainly disappoint a lot of people.
It’s to be applauded for dealing with the complexity of relationships in an adult way and stages the passage of time very cleverly. It also delivers Sturgess another career-redefining role in which to underline his versatility.
His Dexter is quite often a jerk (at best) and it’s rare to see Sturgess playing someone so dislikeable. You’re almost heartbroken for him, especially during some of his more selfish moments.
But at the same time, Sturgess invests a naivety into his character that helps to explain some of his actions, while enabling viewers to sense that he doesn’t really like himself at the best of times.
This is never more so than during the scenes with his mother (Patricia Clarkson), as well as some of the latter sequences between him and Hathaway and – even more belatedly – Dexter and a love rival played by the similarly excellent (but under-written) Rafe Spall.
But the big problem lies with Hathaway. Even as a non-reader of the book, she seems the wrong fit to play a character like Emma who, to all intents and purposes, is a shrinking violet who takes time to blossom.
Hathaway projects too much confidence, is arguably too big a star and clearly struggles with the Yorkshire accent (before giving up). There are too many distractions to make her portrayal of Emma credible. And I’m saying that as a fan, in general, of her work.
Hathaway’s shortcomings are cruelly highlighted still further, though, by the presence of two great British actresses who could, in my opinion, have made better Emmas – namely Romola Garai and Jodie Whittaker, who are woefully under-used here.
Scherfig, too, struggles at times with the demands of the continually evolving time-frames, having to say a lot in a short space of time, much of which is internalised in novel form.
Hence, the opening meeting between Emma And Dexter is too brief (and revisited too late) to allow the actors’ the chance to really form the type of bond you can believe set up a lifetime relationship.
She also short-changes Sturgess in some aspects by making Dexter too much of a jerk and casting Emma in too favourable a light when, in reality, her mis-handling of her own significant other is hardly noble.
It makes some scenes difficult to connect to and audiences need to work hard to really love the characters.
That said, Scherfig ensures the final years between Emma and Dex ring true emotionally and deliver the type of tear-inducing finale that the novel undoubtedly prompted. It means the film is always watchable and quite often thought-provoking given its emotional resonance.
But it’s nowhere near the classic that fans of the book had the right to expect, it pales by comparison to the far superior An Education and it feels like a missed opportunity that was governed more by lending the film a trans-Atlantic box office appeal rather than what was really right for the original story.
Running time: 108mins
UK Release Date: August 24, 2011
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