One Day

One Day

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Just about everyone will, at some point or another, have had one of those friendships that could amount to more. The universality of unrequited - or mutual but unacted upon love - is such that anyone who has reached adolescence should find the central premise of Lone Scherfig's latest strike a chord, which is why it is such a shame that the movie as a whole is so emotionally dissatisfying.

The will they/won't they pair at the heart of the film are Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess). She is a down-to-earth working-class Yorkshire lass - with glasses, which means she is smart - while he is upper middle-class - with a floppy fringe, which means he is a Hooray Henry who is also smart but is wasting his talents. Both of them, of course, will turn out to have hearts of gold beneath their failings. After a drunken fumble on their 1988 graduation day in Edinburgh that seems to amount to little more than sleepover cuddle rather than sex, the pair go their separate ways vowing to keep in touch. The film then dips in and out of their lives over the next 20 years, catching up with them on a single day each year, taking the temperature of their lives and their friendship.

Copy picture

While the idea of charting a long-term relationship via just one day a year may well work perfectly on paper, it's a much trickier concept on film. The choppy nature of the narrative makes it hard to engage with. Some years, for example, are inevitably more interesting than others, meaning that we long to linger with Em and Dex longer than we do, while other years seem to barely further the story at all. The passage of time is also an unwelcome distraction, with some of the fashions seeming to stem from the wrong year altogether - the idea, for example, that Emma would be wearing a full-length under slip in 1988 is nothing short of laughable. In fact, the scenes in 1988 feel more suited to the time period of Scherfig's far-superior An Education, than something from the late Thatcher era.

Disbelief is suspended by a thread so fine it is in danger of snapping almost constantly. First you marvel that someone as pretty as Hathaway would be so bereft of boyfriends that she sees the David Walliams-alike sweet but hopeless Ian (Rafe Spall) as the only alternative to Dexter. Then you wonder why on earth they cast Patricia Clarkson to have a stab at an English accent - a brave failure, as is Hathaway's - when there are any number of excellent British thesps who would have been better suited to the role. Finally, you wonder just how many endings it is possible for a film to have before the credits are allowed to roll.

Despite this, there are hints of the early Richard Curtis-style sweetness that might have been, if the film's emotions weren't constantly being overwhelmed by its unforgiving structure. Sturgess - channelling Johnny Vaughan - and Hathaway, have convincing chemistry when they are given the opportunity, but the rest of the world they inhabit never feels truly believable. It is clearly striving to say something profound about love and loss but, ultimately, One Day is just too weak.

Reviewed on: 26 Aug 2011
Share this with others on...
Will they/won't they romance set over two decades.
Amazon link

Festivals:


Search database: