Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dex (Jim Sturgess) meet on the night of graduation from Edinburgh University. After going home together and having a “near miss,” the two form a friendship that spans 20 years. Although the two are complete opposites–she’s a middle-class, steady, focused girl and he’s a wealthy, spoiled prat–they have a connection and a love for one another that sustains their relationship. The film, directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education), follows these two characters as their lives cross over these two decades, checking in on them on the same day each year: July 15th.
One Day is built upon a central gimmick, and while the results are mixed, it certainly is interesting. By checking in with these characters on the same day each year, viewers miss most of what occurs in their lives. Nearly all the action in their lives occurs off screen, meaning that the characters have to catch viewers up through some quick exposition as the years pass. This makes it hard to judge the film as a whole, but it does make it easy to enjoy specific pieces of it.
There are things to enjoy here: both of the leads are strong actors (although the same can’t be said for Hathaway’s weird, disappearing accent), and they have good chemistry. The film is also quite charming, observant, and touching at times. Having a supporting cast boasting Patricia Clarkson doesn’t hurt, either. There’s a certain freshness to the script, written by David Nicholls (who adapted the story from his eponymous novel), and there are moments of genuine witty banter between the characters. So yes, there are things here worth seeing.
The problem arise when you pause to consider the film as a whole, though. Like romantic comedies/dramedies before it, it examines the age-old film conceit that it takes the love of a good woman to make the man. Dex is a pretty terrible human being, but Emma’s steadfast love and support of him eventually turn him around. It takes several tragedies and some hard moral lessons for this to happen, though. Like other films before it, the film also sends the message that a long-term platonic friendship between a man and a woman must always lead to romance, a statement I take issue with not only because my best friend is a man but because it’s total bullshit. (I blame When Harry Met Sally for establishing this as the norm.)
Of course, the film plods along well enough until the end, where it is guaranteed to split viewers. I won’t spoil it, but my guess is that reactions will fall into several camps: you will see it coming and won’t be surprised (like me); you will find it moving and fitting; or you will cringe to see the film’s general wit crushed by maudlin sentimentality. The ending will likely determine how you feel about the movie in general, which is too bad, because up until it, it’s not a bad film.
One Day is playing in theaters now.