This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 23rd October 2011
Anne Hathaway dons Doc Marten boots and a northern English accent and Jim Sturgess (from 21 and the Beatles music movie Across the Universe) goes a bit posh, to play Emma and Dexter – two friends whose relationship spans two decades. We first meet them at their graduation on July 15, 1988, and then the story moves apace as we see them on that day every year thereafter, in various states of romance, employment and happiness.
This is the eagerly awaited film adaptation of a best-selling, much-loved novel, and the predominantly 30-something female target audience will be rightly apprehensive about whether the silver screen can do it justice.
Director Lone Scherfig hit the jackpot with 2009’s An Education, and she brings a similar touch to the gentle characterisation of Em and Dex, shooting the whole story with a slightly blue-tinged softness and placing them in nondescript grey London streets and soulless nightclubs. Hathaway has had mixed reviews (mostly for her accent, which is actually pretty good) but she is convincingly frumpy, lamenting early on that sex usually leaves her “laughing or weeping” but that she’s “looking for something in between”. As her character grows out of Harry Potter glasses and frizzy hair, she blossoms credibly into an every-girl swan. As Dexter, Sturgess has the burden of an often unsympathetic character, but despite playing it a bit too large and leery in moments, he somehow still manages to make us care.
Fine actors like Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott are unnecessarily weighty for their supporting roles, but Rafe Spall (son of Timothy) is a stand-out for his ability to imbue the dopey Ian with a truthful pathos, despite his intended role as clown.
At times One Day is lightweight, even formulaic in its plotting, but the characters are impressively engaging as Sturgess and Hathaway are suitably comfortable with one another. Propagating a key message that happiness waits for no man, it may give some viewers pause for thought and a prompt for action.