Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Lone Scherfig

Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott.

At first this heartbreaking romantic drama seems like a variation of Same Time, Next Year, the 1978 Robert Mulligan drama in which Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn carried out an illicit affair over the course of 25 years, meeting on the same day every year at a hotel.

Based on the novel by David Nichols (Starter For Ten, etc), One Day follows the relationship of two people over the course of twenty years, dropping in on their lives on that same day for the next two decades. Sometimes they are together, other times they are apart. And the audience is often left to ponder whether the pair will become more than best friends and live together. We follow the trajectory of their lives, and experience their triumphs and disappointments, the tragedies and relationships that mark their passage through life. As John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” The gimmick works up to a point, but the film itself falls rather flat.

Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) click at their university graduation on St. Swithin’s Day, July 15, 1988, and end up spending the night together. Both have great ambitions for their lives. The more studious Emma wants to be a writer, while the handsome, self-absorbed Dexter dreams of a career in television. But a year later, Emma is working in a Mexican themed restaurant, which she calls “the graveyard of ambition”. She also has a relationship with her co-worker and aspiring stand-up comic Ian (Rafe Spall, son of Timothy). Dexter is off to India to find himself. And on it goes for the rest of the film.

Emma eventually turns to teaching and becomes a successful writer. Dexter hosts a vapid television music show, but most tabloids have dubbed him the most annoying man on television. He also imbibes lots of alcohol and drugs. The film then follows their lives on July 15 every year, which becomes the touchstone of major events in their lives. But not everything that happens to this pair is wildly exciting either.

Part of the problem with the film lies in the casting. Hathaway is an American playing a feisty and typical English middle class girl, and while her accent is good, she seems terribly miscast. And she seems too old to be playing Emma as a recent graduate. She does grow into the role over time, leaving behind Emma’s awkward manner and shyness to grow more confident. Sturgess (from Across The Universe) fares much better, although his character is fairly superficial and shallow, lacking any great ambition, and he remains largely unlikeable. Special make up effects convincingly age him over the course of the film’s twenty-year span.

The usually excellent Patricia Clarkson pops up again in a small role as Dexter’s mother, but fails to leave her mark on an underwritten character. Ken Stott is strong as Dexter’s father, who is frustrated by his son’s carefree attitude and lack of direction.

One Day is enriched by its exotic locations, including Edinburgh, London and Paris, which have been beautifully shot by veteran cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, etc).

Nichols has adapted his own novel for the screen, but seems unable to give the material a very cinematic feel. Nonetheless it contains much of that sense of romantic yearning that endeared the novel to readers. There is an episodic nature to the film as it lurches from one year to the next.

One Day has been directed with gentle hand by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, who previously gave us the very affecting English drama An Education. Here she seems less engaged with the material. Nonetheless she suffuses the film with a cynically manipulative streak and large dollops of pathos that will resonate strongly with those who love weepie dramas.




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