One Day is a film based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls, published in 2009. David Nicholls also wrote the screenplay for the film. One would think that this would work in the film’s favor, but in this case, it did not.
The story of One Day involves Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) who start out as awkward almost lovers, and over time, walk the line between lovers and friends. It is called One Day because the story is told on the same day, July 15th, from 1988 until 2006. It actually goes a few years beyond 2006, but delving into those years amounts to a huge spoiler for the film. Emma and Dexter met before July 15th, 1988 at parties and gatherings, but the beginning of their relationship happens on that day. They both graduated from Edinburgh University, and after a little partying, Dexter ends up going to Emma’s apartment for a little rendezvous. It ends up being not what either planned it to be, but a friendship is born that lasts for many years.
Both Emma and Dexter have flaws in their character that makes them incompatible from the start. Emma is a bit of a Plain Jane. She is pretty average with large glasses and curly, unruly hair. She undervalues herself. She takes a lame job waitressing at a Mexican restaurant in London after her writing career does not take off. She more or less settles for much less than what she deserves. After she knows things with Dexter won’t work out in her favor, she settles for a dorky guy named Ian (Rafe Spall) who wants to be a comedian. Emma eventually finds success in a teaching and writing career, but it is long road.
Dexter comes from an upper middle-class family and has the benefit of privilege and good looks to get him by in life. He ends up being a producer and host for a late night talk and entertainment show. He enjoys a lot of success in the beginning, but falls victim to drugs and alcohol, leading him to a sorry existence. He also has a number of girls’ attention throughout the years. His mother (Patricia Clarkson) is a pretty, fun, hip mom, and his dad (Ken Stott) is a bit more practical and serious. His mother falls ill during the worst time in Dexter’s life, and he ends up disappointing both of his parents with the lifestyle he leads. Dexter falls out of fame and eventually loses his job. Through all of this, he seems to rely on Emma being there for him if he ever needs her.
I did not find Dexter to be a likeable character. The guy is a jerk for most of the film. It was hard for me to root for Emma and Dexter to end up together when this guy is so undeserving. He makes a lot of mistakes and seems to take advantage of people, even Emma. Combined with my misgivings about the ambition in Emma’s character, both Dexter and Emma do not make a perfect couple.
While some may be able to forgive the character flaws or even appreciate them, the setting for the film is the same day over eighteen years. Sometimes the day was extended to two days. Although this is the time frame for the book and the film, it left the film with a disjointed feeling. Before you know it, the audience is transported to the next year. With eighteen years and 108 minutes runtime, the film cannot dwell on any particular day for very long before moving onto the next. If it was ten years instead of eighteen, that would give the audience more time to see what happened in that moment in time.
Both of the main actors did a decent job with their characters. It is a little odd to see Anne Hathaway with an English accent. Patricia Clarkson as Dexter’s mother probably had the best role in the film. I loved her attitude, and it was odd to see her with an English accent as well.
For me personally, I believe the end of the film is the best part. It gives the audience a little more insight into how Emma and Dexter became friends and stayed in touch. It would have been nice to have seen this at the beginning of the film, rather than at the end. They have a great kiss, which is highly featured on the film’s movie poster. I was also impressed with the way the dates of each year were presented. The opening credits also are creative as they reminded me of the older black and white movies.
I did not read the novel the film is based on, but I have heard that it is quite good. I think that readers will be disappointed with the end result of the film, as I am sure the novel probably gives more detail as to what happened each day, each year. While One Day is not an awful movie, even for the romance genre, it does not come close to being a great movie. With the length of time the novel and film deals with, I think this is perhaps one film that probably could have never been successfully done. Even if the film was extended to two hours of runtime, I probably would have still come away with the same opinion. I am sure loads of the female demographic will see One Day, I just do not think they will come away from the film seeing and experiencing what they expected.
I give One Day 3 “tequila shots” out of 5.