Universal // 2011 // 107 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // November 29th, 2011
Twenty years. Two people.
"I love you, Dex, so much. I just don't like you anymore. I'm sorry."
Based on the national bestseller by David Nicholls, One Day introduces us to Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess, 21), two individuals who first meet on July 15, 1988, the day of their graduation from the University of Edinburgh. Following a wild night out celebrating with mutual friends, Dexter and Emma decide to begin a special friendship that will help define their lives over the next two decades.
Much like the relationship at its core, One Day has plenty of ups and downs. The initial appeal of this big-screen adaptation obviously lies within its unusual structure, which is designed to tell a twenty-year story in less than two hours. The movie checks in with Dexter and Emma on the same day almost every year between 1988 and 2011, allowing the plot to keep moving at a swift pace all while avoiding sluggish moments or unnecessary scenes. This may all sound like a straightforward win-win situation, but it doesn't come without its problems.
First of all, showing Dex and Emma either alone or interacting with each other on only one day per year over a two-decade period doesn't leave much room for proper character development. As a result, One Day clearly suffers from a lack of depth in both story and characters. Both brief and trivial, the conversations between the two leads never stand a chance of becoming remotely engaging or truly heartfelt, primarily because the plot is forced to race through twenty years within 107 minutes. I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to like, connect with or even feel for a fictional characters based on watching only a few moments per each year of their lives.
Sadly enough, showing only bits and pieces of what Dexter and Emma are doing with their lives as they get older does not do them justice as supposedly compelling characters. It makes them appear shallow and private, making it almost impossible for us viewers to really understand why they are who they are. Both Dexter and Emma encounter a horde of challenges and life transformations throughout these twenty years, and yet, I couldn't find it in me to warm up to them or fully comprehend some of their decisions. The moments we do get to see them onscreen desperately try to justify their current state of mind, but barely any of it ends up either credible or relevant.
Either way, One Day is just another romance about two "friends" who take an eternity to find out that they've been in love with each other all along. If that's right up your alley, I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy the movie. It carries all the ingredients of a schmaltzy love story that doesn't care to be memorable, and this one clearly doesn't go the extra mile to stand out. Not only does the film follow two opposite characters who know they could never entirely go their separate ways, but it also carries a large number or overly dramatic lifestyle changes and odd twists used solely to make their special relationship appear all the more powerful.
Unfortunately, One Day is one of those films expecting spectators to buy into pretty much anything it serves them. I have no intention of including any spoilers in my take on the flick, but let me just say that the final act includes an outrageously forced twist. Some of you may be deeply moved by where the story is heading toward the end, but you can count me among those still cringing when I think about it.
Although it may not at all seem that way, I can't say I hate One Day. The plot never really drags (except at the end), the locations Nicholls takes his characters are beyond gorgeous, and the cinematography by Benoit Delhomme deserves more praise than anything else in the film. Then there's Anne Hathaway, who despite her horrific accent, carries the whole thing on her shoulders. She may not have the most intriguing character to work with here, but she looks stunning brings along just the right amount of charm she needs to manipulate her audience into falling for Emma.
Although an aspiring poet who would love to earn a living as a published author, Emma is the kind of girl who has to work hard to fulfill her dream. Hathaway is the perfect actress to portray this hardworking young woman, and she definitely injects the movie with the life and energy it needs to stay afloat. Jim Sturgess impressed me as well, although Dexter is almost too similar to the character he played in 21. Case in point: Dex is the overconfident hotshot who becomes a rising TV star and quickly ends up on the alcohol and drug train. Sturgess masters Dex's several life transformations quite well, and he does share a satisfying chemistry with Hathaway.
On Blu-ray, One Day looks really good. The disc includes a clean 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen presentation of the feature, and while the picture looks a tad grainy in dark scenes, it shines in brighter environments. Long story short, this transfer does Delhomme's fabulous cinematography justice. In terms of audio, the high-def edition doesn't disappoint either; viewers are treated to a superb DTS-HD Master audio transfer that properly balances dialogue, foley, nat sound, and score. The bonus section on the disc includes a so-so audio commentary with director Lone Scherfig, some deleted scenes, and a few very short behind-the-scenes featurettes. Nothing memorable here at all...
Coming off the brilliant An Education, One Day almost feels like a step back for director Lone Scherfig, although I have to point out the film's weaknesses should mostly be attributed to Nicholls' contrived script. Although by no means the worst romance of the year, One Day can't help but fall short in several aspects. Time doesn't always make things better.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site