Review: One Day (2011)

DIRECTOR: Lone Scherfig.

CAST: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Rafe Spall, Romola Garai, Ken Stott, Patricia Clarkson, Tom Mison, Jodie Whittaker, Georgia King, Matt Berry.

SYNOPSIS: Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Sturgess) spend the night together after graduating from University. However, there is more talking and cuddling than actual funny business, so they agree to just be friends. We view glimpses of where they are on the same date each year – sometimes together, sometimes not.

First thing’s first. Anne Hathaway’s accent is nowhere near as abysmal as the masses are proclaiming. Granted, you have to fight hard to find the great Northern nuggets within her dialogue, but at least she doesn’t lapse into American. Let’s just say it’s as if she’s spent her life flitting between most of the counties within the UK. At her best when torn between the man she lives with and the man she loves, Hathaway shows real moments of fragility and confusion as Emma, as we track her from graduate to homeowner and beyond. However, it is Jim Sturgess as her best friend Dexter who has the edge in One Day.

Dexter annoys. He grates. But Sturgess does this in a way that makes Dexter practically impossible not to love. I have to admit I know people like him, complete with overly posh accent and buckets of bravado, but underneath the charm and good looks there is ultimately a man with heart – even if he truly is just a boy who is longing to be accepted. Growing as the film goes on, Sturgess shows that he really does have a big future ahead, with hissy fits, jokes, frustration and a great deal of loss all dealt with extremely ably by the actor.

Rafe Spall’s performance as Ian makes it look certain that he is set to be a very successful character actor like father, Timothy. Looking more and more like he belongs in Little Britain as the film progresses, his timing, facial expressions and devotion to Emma are as equally hilarious as heartbreaking. For a struggling stand-up comedian, Ian is actually very funny, talking to nobody in particular about the origins of the word ‘brunch’, for example.

Unfortunately, parts of One Day feel as if they would be better suited to a television series, and at times everything feels a little needlessly over the top and clichéd. Even the reliable Patricia Clarkson seems to struggle with both the English accent and the burdens her character is dealt with, but Romola Garai and Ken Stott add a well-needed dose of realism to the film. Although it struggles at times, the pace is never particularly slow, with things a little rushed if anything. But, in keeping with the nature of viewing two people on a set day each year, this cannot be criticised and keeps our heads busy trying to put together the remaining pieces.

The relationship between Emma and Dexter is fun, difficult and consuming, but never too intense. With Dexter’s very heavy and Emma’s seemingly boring lifestyles never seeming particularly destined to align, the joy in seeing them get closer to the love they so desperately long for is both funny and touching.

Not destined to be a classic in the same vein as the book, One Day is a very sweet and honest portrayal of the lives of two kindred spirits, but is hindered by the director’s choice of wanting to be entirely faithful to the book. Where this would usually be a good decision, within One Day it never lets us access quite as much of Emma and Dexter’s feelings as we would like.


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