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August 20, 2011
Review - " One Day "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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One Day
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Tom Mison, Jodie Whittaker,
Rafe Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Scott.

One Day is a love story about two apparent opposites who, more on
less, fall in love at first sight when they spend the night together after
graduating from Edinburgh University on July 15, 1988. But while these
characters are very aware of their feelings, they’re not ready to be
together the moment they fall for each other. It takes nearly two
decades of dropping in on the couple on the anniversary of their
inaugural interaction for them to finally make a move towards
something more than friendship.

The film’s fresh premise comes from David Nicholls’ extraordinarily
popular 2009 novel. Nicholls, too, stuck around to pen the film’s
screenplay, which certainly required some trimming down of the nearly
450-page literary work. The novel devotes at least a chapter to each
July 15th — which is known as St. Swithin’s Day in the areas where the
film takes place — from 1988 to 2010, though the film, for
understandable purposes, occasionally represents one of the passing
years with just a single brief scene. To Nicholls’ credit, One Day never
suffers from any pacing concerns.

The two main characters, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, are
played here by Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, who over the course
of the film develop into a perfectly believable and pleasant screen
couple. Emma is a studious and polite girl, not one who makes a
practice of encroaching the territory of youthful rebellion. She comes
from a middle-class background — well, middle-class compared to Dexter’s enormously wealthy parents, played effectively by
Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott. It’s perhaps this very upbringing that accounts for the man Dexter eventually becomes —
promiscuous, pompous, self-destructive; all abhorrent qualities that tend to overshadow his confident charm and deep-down

Hathaway’s accent in the film has been a hot topic among critics and audiences, and though I will admit to being skeptical
once I first saw the trailer she comes off nicely on the big screen. There are moments of uncertainty here and there — she
doesn’t seem to have quite the same level of control that she displayed in her stellar, Oscar-nominated turn in Rachel
Getting Married — but overall, Hathaway settles in amiably and makes for a lovable and endearing Emma.

It’s clearly Jim Sturgess’ work as Dexter,
however, that is most striking. He seems more
accurately cast, for one thing. He has a face
that fits comfortably with the film’s aging
process - I completely bought his worn-down,
gray-haired persona towards the film’s end.
During the entirety of the film, meanwhile, he
absolutely nails Dexter’s emotional state: a
roguish charmer on the outside, a needy
romantic on the inside. Hopefully this nicely
crafted portrayal paves the way for compelling
opportunities in Sturgess’ future.

While the film is very much focused on the
relationship between Emma and Dexter, career
decisions and other obstacles lead to plenty
of time apart over the years. At one juncture,
Emma, at this point having given up on her
ideal career as a writer, is waitressing at a
run-down Tex-Mex restaurant in London - and
also participating in a not-so-passionate affair with hopeful stand-up comic Ian (Rafe Spall). At the same time, Dexter earns a
television hosting gig that puts his fame on the rise. Such a lifestyle, combined with Dexter’s naturally wild personality, leads
to dark times in his life, largely because of the influence of alcohol and drugs. Though the film as a whole has a melodramatic
air to it, the sequences from this portion of the story - the portion where Dexter is almost always drugged-up; at one point,
Emma confesses that it’s been three years since she’s seen Dexter sober - feel like the most forced of the entire movie.
Really, though, this film excels because of Sturgess: He’s so cocky, charming, confident and lonely that his later fall is that
much more exquisite, and here he brings to mind the pain and trauma he deftly handled in 2007’s Beatles-inspired film
“Across the Universe” and 2010’s “The Way Back.”

One Day is far from a seamless adaptation - indeed, it’s a whole load messier that Scherfig’s tidy previous outing, An
Education - but that doesn’t keep it from carrying genuine emotional impact. Nicholls’ screenplay, fortunately, rarely shies
away from the sharply funny dialogue of the source material - the banter between Hathaway and Sturgess is, more often than
not, presented with good comedic timing.
I have a feeling that the film’s negative
critical reception results mostly from the fact
that it’s an unusually ambitious romantic
drama. It’s not something that’s meant to go
down easy and, as a result, the film could
very well isolate viewers who don’t respond
favorably to the story’s conclusion. But I
can only speak for myself, and with One
Day, I found a pair of characters I was
willing to invest in, and was treated to
numerous moments of emotional power.

You think that people would have had
enough of silly love movies? You would
have thought wrong (Paul McCartney
knows this!). ‘One Day’ is just the right kind
of weepy romance to round out the
summer.  The film is subtle and memorable,
weightier than the typically sexually charged
romance and more original than a run-of-
the-mill tearjerker. “One Day” is worth one
of yours.