Universal // 2011 // 108 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // December 7th, 2011
"Maybe we could just be friends."
"Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today."
Set over the course of twenty-three years, One Day opens on July 15, 1998, with the first meeting between Dexter (Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe) and Emma (Anne Hathaway, The Devil Wears Prada). The two are seemingly set for a one-night stand, but when this fails to materialize, they settle for a lifelong friendship.
As the years take their toll, with Emma unable to rid herself of the feelings she holds for Dexter, the two find themselves coming together on the same day every year. As partners come and go, the one constant in their lives is each other, yet something is always standing in the way of them finally becoming lovers.
Author David Nicholls' critically acclaimed, and massively popular book One Day is brought to the big screen by director Lone Scherfig; who, coming off the acclaim of An Education, promises much. However, those expecting either the heights of Scherfig's earlier work or Nicholls' novel are likely to be left wanting.
The screenplay, adapted by David Nicholls from his own book, works in numerous references to the changing face of popular culture over the past two decades, with nods to The Simpsons, Army of Darkness ("My only complaint was there wasn't enough violence, you didn't mind did you; or did you want to see Three Colors Blue?"), videogames, and, most prominently, the ever-changing world of pop music. This goes a long way to drawing the viewer in and presents an instantly familiar world for those over thirty. Still, although the two lead roles are written well enough, it's hard not to shake the feeling the unique structure, which sees Dex and Emma meet up on the same day every year, fails to do enough to really stand out from the crowd. The story, as it is, follows the same basic course as most any romantic drama/comedy, and includes scenes you'll have seen in everything from Jerry Maguire to City of Angels and beyond. There's also a seemingly morbid need to bring about a heartrending finale to ensure the tears are in full flow in time for the end credits. It feels contrived, unnecessary, and not just a little cheap and it does the film no favors at all. I accept this is only in keeping with the book, but it would be unfair to other films to accept this plot development simply because it is faithful to the source material. Still, despite this, it is undeniable that One Day is an entertaining, if somewhat superfluous, picture. In more subtle hands the film may have better gotten across its message on the fragile nature of love, and the despair one feels when it is lost.
When discussing the acting, it is far too easy to center on Anne Hathaway's Yorkshire accent; indeed, much of the British press was quick to criticize her wandering dialect, which takes in nearly every accent one can find within the British isles. However, I shall refrain for two reasons. Firstly, I can do no better myself -- and I'm a Brit. Secondly, and more importantly, Hathaway delivers an earthy performance that is full of insecurities; the often-cruel treatment her Emma Morley suffers at the hands of Jim Sturgess' caddish Dexter Mayhew -- though unintentional -- is something that will resonate with many viewers. Sturgess also impresses; in many ways his role as the arrogant Dexter is the more interesting, as he seemingly gets everything he ever wanted, yet still finds something missing. That something is obviously Emma. When both his mother (Patricia Clarkson, The Green Mile) and Emma advise him that he isn't particularly nice anymore, Sturgess beautifully portrays the feeling of having let down those he loves. In many ways, One Day is Dexter's story, and Sturgess conveys the full spectrum of human emotion without the need for hyperbole.
Director Lone Scherfig turns in a handsome-looking picture that, considering her previous film, feels like a step toward the mainstream at the cost of some of her artistry.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is, at first glance, rather bland. Still, taking the time to really study the picture reveals an excellent level of detail, with a sharp, clean image complemented by natural colors. A skinny dipping scene early on highlights excellent black levels, and confirms the excellent detail levels are not the sole property of lighter scenes. The 5.1 mix matches the video presentation stride for stride, with crisp dialogue.
The bonus materials start with a selection of deleted scenes. "Em and Dex: Through the Years" is a short fluff piece, which sees the cast and crew discuss the way the characters change over the course of the movie. "Anne Hathaway: Bringing Emma to Life" is much the same as the previous piece, but focused solely on Anne Hathaway's role. "The Look of One Day" is broken down into three smaller featurettes: "Making a 20 Year Love Story," "Creating Emma With Anne," and "Dexter's Transformation." Finally, along with a selection of trailers, is a rather bland commentary track.
Beyond a finale that tries too hard, One Day is an enjoyable movie that will no doubt be a five-star smash for its intended target audience, yet still manages to make for a solid three-star movie for everyone else.
Review content copyright © 2011 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site