Today: February 22, 2024
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One Day

By Erykah Brackenbury. After a failed attempt at coitus, Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) agree to remain friends. One Day visits their lives on every 15 July. A contrived premise that works on the page is contorted for the screen so it naturally transpires that all the significant events in the two’s lives conveniently happen on the same day each year.

By Erykah Brackenbury

After a failed attempt at coitus, Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) agree to remain friends. One Day visits their lives on every 15 July. A contrived premise that works on the page is contorted for the screen so it naturally transpires that all the significant events in the two’s lives conveniently happen on the same day each year.

A concept such as this can only work with chemistry between its leads. The lacklustre bonhomie between Hathaway and Sturgess makes the former’s Oscar telecast look like a Tracy/Hepburn production. Quite why Emma and Dexter spend the next two decades following their graduation pining after one another is never entirely made clear as for most of the film he’s a twat and she’s insipid. Any comedy from the novel is lost in favour of the interminable will-they-won’t-they (or more, WHEN will they, given the predictable nature of the plot).

For all this purports to be a film about two people, it is really about Dexter. His drug-fuelled hedonistic twenties lead to an inevitable downfall and his redemption is a far more believable and compelling (if well-worn) narrative than Emma’s conveniently meteoric rise to success. While the novel explores the ephemeral nature of youthful dreams and the destruction of hope as one ages, the film’s main message is that booze and drugs are bad, ok kids? Even if you do happen to have a dying mother to blame all your problems on.

Dexter is at least a fully-fleshed character, whilst Emma is reduced to a series of wry bons mots and toothy grinning. Thankfully the supporting cast pick up the slack. Rafe Spall’s Ian is easily the best thing in the film: a Star Trek-obsessed failing comedian who can’t quite believe his luck in pulling someone who looks like Anne Hathaway.

Hathaway is woefully miscast as a supposedly ordinary looking girl from Yorkshire. Director Lone Scherfig’s attempts to transform Hathaway into an ugly duckling consist of Harry Potter glasses and a bad haircut. Needless to say, this doesn’t work. As with every ugly duckling story, we of course get the clichéd moment where our main characters suddenly realise Emma Morley is suddenly one of the most beautiful women in the world, purely through the stunning transformation of contact lenses and some expensive conditioner. Considering even moron-porn Not Another Teen Movie cack-handedly spoofed this trope an entire decade ago, it’s a lazy and ill-considered device to generate some sympathy towards Emma. Allegedly crippled by low self esteem, her attempts to gain self confidence feel smug when coming from human tree frog Hathaway.

Hathaway’s accent wanders all over the British Isles, plus the odd cross-Atlantic trip. This defeats the novel’s original point of distinguishing Emma’s humble background with Dexter’s privilege. Things take an even more surreal turn where we are invited to laugh at Dexter’s adoption of a mockney accent. This, for all its idiocy, is still infinitely better than Hathaway’s attempts at pretending to be English.

The smug middle-classness of the film is rather overbearing, with Emma striving to achieve what Dexter was born into. For a film covering twenty years and endless supporting characters, it is also astonishingly white. Perhaps just a surprising oversight by the casting director, but the idea that Emma and Dexter are secretly white supremacists would have made for a far more interesting narrative.

Despite the dodgy accents and even dodgier casting decisions, the film is well-directed. Little quirks by Scherfig capture the changing of time beautifully and she coaxes Edinburgh into putting in a more nuanced and believable performance than the two leads.

Fans of weepy romances such as The Notebook will probably adore this, but for most it’s worth a miss. A lack of much-needed humour and charm makes this a rather dull experience.

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