Let's face it, folks--being forced to stare at Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway for a couple hours isn't the worst way to spend some time. But in this case, eye candy is about all viewers can expect. One Day is like a soufflé--it looks gorgeous and has a light yummy quality, but it’s mostly hollow and falls flat fast.
Director Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs this gimmicky film adaptation of David Nicholl's best-selling novel, which should have been titled Relationship's Greatest Hits. Spanning 20 years and including all the crap that happens over a lifetime, the film hits what should be the important beats of a love story but never really got a grip on my heartstrings (so it could tug at them later, get it?).
Emma (Hathaway) and Dex (Sturgess) went to college together, and although Emma pined for him for years, he never knew she existed until their graduation on St. Swithin's Day, 1988 (the 15th of July, for all you Yanks). On that special day, the stars aligned so he became somewhat less of a clueless tool and she became somewhat less of a bookish prude. Thanks to the elation of freedom and the deliciousness of alcohol, they share an intimate moment (that is, they hop into bed) and their lives begin to intertwine—but not without consequences. They agree to reunite every July 15th for the following two decades, in which they (and we) endure their long phone calls, terrible jobs, drug problems, gross clothing trends, holidays, fights, new loves, unfamiliar homes, deaths and games of Scrabble.
The problem here is not acting. Hathaway and Sturgess have palpable chemistry, so that helps the film somewhat. Jim Sturgess continues to surprise as a performer, because whether he's betting $20 grand in high stakes blackjack or passing out against a palm tree, I always end up spellbound. He is so natural and confident, he easily holds his own with other more experienced actors (in this case, Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott, who are great as his parents). I could even tolerate Anne Hathaway's fake-y British accent and her combat boots. Rafe Spall also snared my attention as the under-appreciated and painfully sweet Ian, the good guy Emma can’t bring herself to love.
This is the kind of movie that would normally have me red-faced and bawling so hard I’d be embarrassed to leave the theater. But because it was packed so full of 20 years’ worth of issues, they ultimately became meaningless. I latched on to the characters in the book with an iron grasp, but none of what charmed me there translated into the screen adaptation. Unfortunately, this movie was the Cliff’s Notes version of the novel—superficial enough to help you pass a test, but the essence of the story is lost. You're better off investing in the book and creating Emma and Dex in your imagination.