Brit Movies: One Day – Review – Nice, but Shallow – Does it Live up to the Book?

Based on the best selling book by David Nicholls, One Day tells the story of Dexter and Emma, two college friends and their ever changing relationship over the span of 20 years. Each scene of the movie takes place on the same day in progressing years.

Part of the problem of adapting books in to movies is the inevitable need to condense material that can take days to read down into an easily digestible 2 hours. The “July 15th” conceit may have worked well in the book, but when translated to film all you get is watching characters react to events that happened on other days without any context for why they matter. This left me feeling very feel very disconnected from charaters that the script, camera angles and music were clearly telling me I was supposed to care about. A well placed flashback here and there could have easily solved this.

Instead, what we get is two people who are supposed to be opposites. Emma the idealist – we know this because she sleeps in a t-shirt that clearly anyone with ideals would wear – and Dex the superficial playboy – he mentions the labels of all his clothes down to his underwear and dates a string of blondes. In case their differences weren’t made clear by these details, Dex shows off a “yin and yang” tattoo explaining that it is the perfect union of two complete opposites. Consider the point well hammered in.

As Emma, Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) continues to show why she is one of the finest actresses working today. She shows a complete range of character growth and never once did I question her as an awkward college grad, disgruntled waitress who has given up or as a woman confident in the choices she’s made. Yet I never really got the sense of why Emma carried a torch for Dex long before the first time we meet them on screen.

Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) as Dex feels far more one note. He shows us a lot about Dex – we are shown he has a strained relationship with his father, we are shown he gets taken in by the pitfalls of fame, we are shown that he looses everything – but never feel how this happened to him or how he feels about it on a deep level. The character of Dex is the character that really suffers from the one day concept. The most interesting things in his life all happen on other days which is why it was hard to feel for his decline.

Only once does something with real impact happen to Dex and Emma on the day we are allowed to see them and for me, that was the first time I really felt anything for Dex and felt fully invested in the movie. This was the point for me that I finally felt for these two characters and the people in their lives. It just took too long to get there.

One Day was adapted for the screen by the novel’s author, and this may have something to do with my issues with the movie. A fresh pair of eyes may have been able to tell Dex and Emma’s story in a way that drew me in rather than kept me at arm’s length.

This guest review was written by By Kristin Elliott from The Director’s Cut Radio.

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  1. avatar says

    I very much enjoyed the movie – one of the few dates Mrs. Anglotopia and I have had since we had our baby. We both liked it but agree it’s a tad shallow. I’m a little mad at what happened later the movie – mostly because it was just so shocking.

    Anne Hathaway’s accent is terrible but really the movie is good enough on it’s own that I didn’t really notice.

    It will be a nice movie to add to the Anglophile library.