Falling in Love in ‘One Day’ Takes Twenty Years
By Valerie Dunn
Elm Staff Writer
From the novel written and adapted for the screen by David Nicholls, director Lone Scherfig (“An Education”) has captured the enjoyable story of two people and their twenty-year relationship as seen through one day of each year. Anne Hathaway (“Alice in Wonderland”) is Emma, a slightly awkward but loveable writer, and Jim Sturgess (“Across the Universe”) is Dexter, a man whose love for a good time almost prevents him from understanding his love for Emma.
“One Day” reveals the friendship of Emma and Dexter through short vignettes of their lives on July 15, the anniversary of when they first met in 1988. On the night after their graduation from University, Emma and Dexter begin an unlikely friendship that will survive the disappointments and periods of separation across twenty years.
While Emma struggles to become a published author, Dexter struggles to balance the luxuries of a late-night TV host with his moral responsibilities. Both characters change, but they are challenged not so much as their friendship. When Emma and Dexter finally realize the helplessness of their lives without each other, the film concludes with a finale that is breath-taking and remarkably poignant.
Though the vignettes through which the story is told could potentially succeed as a gimmick and nothing more, the twenty years of snapshots present the friendship of Emma and Dexter with astonishing clarity. Nicholls’ script spans a wide range of emotions with brilliantly conceived and delivered dialogue.
Moreover, the performances of Hathaway and Sturgess enhance the simplicity of each captured July 15 with their excellent on-screen chemistry. Even when Emma and Dexter do not share a scene, Hathaway and Sturgess evoke the emotions of separated friends with an honesty that is both sad and beautiful.
Also beautiful are the land and cityscapes of Scotland, London, and Paris, framed with pleasant cinematography. Not only do the varying locations provide satisfying backdrops, but they also reflect the time change as the story progresses. The timestamps used to organize the scenes also amuse with their quirky cleverness.
The costumes additionally support the years with careful attention to details in clothing, hair, and makeup. The transformation of Dexter from an attractive youth to a washed-out TV host is particularly convincing.
The film is not without its flaws, of course. Though Hathaway gives Emma Morley character and sympathy, the American’s Yorkshire accent wavers in its dexterity. The weaker accent distracts attention from the otherwise well-crafted development of Emma, especially at the beginning of the film as the viewer acclimates himself to the jumble of dialects. Moreover, while Dexter is an ultimately likeable guy (even when he isn’t), Sturgess seems to have progressed little from his break-out role in “Across the Universe.” Additionally, with the film’s focus on the two major characters, the script fails to give minor characters the development they deserve.
Despite these set-backs, however, “One Day” is thoroughly worth viewing. It is vastly entertaining, but the characters and story ultimately resonate as deeply meaningful. The series of vignettes displays a romantic story in a refreshingly original fashion that is a credit to the skills of both screenwriter and director. The life of Emma and Dexter is more than a romance, it is a friendship, and watching this path inspires the viewer to both consider his own friendships and wonder just where those relationships will end.