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One Day (A Movie Review)

One Day

ONE DAY (2011)

Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott, Romola Garai, Rafe Spall, Tom Mison, Jodie Whittaker, Joséphine de La Baume, Heida Reed, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Georgia King and Matt Berry.

Screenplay by David Nicholls.

Directed by Lone Scherfig.

Distributed by Focus Features. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13.

One Day is exactly what it says: a single date in the life of two British friends who may be interested in becoming more. The catch is that it is played out over a period of over twenty years. 

Essentially, the audience visits Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) every July 15 (St. Swithin’s Day) from college to middle age. What has happened in their lives before and after these visits is usually implied, but not always spelled out (though, thoughtfully, many of their major life changes appear to happen on that very date.) We just get little peeks into the worlds, growth, and maturity of two common people, stumbling through lifelong friendship towards the potential of true love. 

Based on the popular novel by David Nicholls (who also wrote the screenplay), One Day is a mostly very enjoyable, if perhaps a bit predictable, romantic comedy. It is similar in structure to the 70s stage play Same Time, Next Year, which later became a film romantic comedy with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn – charting a couple’s progress by taking a snapshot of their lives annually and letting the audience fill in the blanks. Of course, in this case the structure seems a little more rudimentary and gimmicky – in that film, they literally only saw each other once a year, here there is little doubt that these two have interactions on other days of the year. 

Still, the gimmick mostly works very well and despite a melodramatic plot turn towards the end, One Day is one of the most pleasing romantic comedies of the year.

In the beginning, Emma and Dexter are about to graduate from college, friends of friends who spend one fantastic day together and are about to hook up for an evening of probably rather meaningless sex when the fates intervene and interrupt those plans. 

From there, the film moves forward to that day from year to year – spanning a period from 1988 to the present day. We find the two find friendship and experience much of life before finally being able to find love in each other in their late 30s. Well, that is a bit of a misnomer. They obviously loved each other in their own way for years, but they finally synch up to the point where they can share their lives. (Apologies if that seems like a bit of a spoiler. The film’s promotion has been quite open about the fact that they spend years before finally coming together, so it seems like the cat was already out of the bag.) 

Is it a coincidence that they eventually sort of meet each other in the middle? She starts out young and poor with a wretched dead-end job in a Mexican restaurant and a boring lover before finding a teaching job that excites her and gaining a bit of notoriety as a children’s book writer. He starts out a rich trust fund baby, finds some early fame and fortune as the host of a cheesy 90s TV chat show before alcohol and a bad marriage bring him down to earth. 

I don’t think it is a coincidence. They both had to be at a place in life to be able to open themselves up to the relationship.

Can it work out? Well, that is a much more complicated question, one that for spoiler’s sake I can’t and won’t answer.

However, even that is only a part of the story. The love is important to the two of them, but the friendship is the thing that is vital. Even if these two never acknowledged their feelings, One Day would be a still fascinating story. One as endlessly full of pathos and potential as only two people who grow up together can be. 

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: August 19, 2011.


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