Review: One Day

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I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that One Day is the first film to be centered around St. Swithin’s Day. It really should have been called St. Swithin’s day, but then would have mistaken it for one of those horrid romantic ensemble comedies made by Garry Marshall.

This film has gotten some pretty bad reviews, but I liked it all right. Maybe it was my mood, or maybe it’s that I could probably stand to see Anne Hathaway reading the instruction manual for an electric toothbrush. She has what they used to call star quality, and even though her English accent comes and goes here, she’s radiant. All by herself she has lifted this film one entire grade for me.

The conceit, and it’s a pretty good one, is that we follow the relationship between two people by looking in on them during only one calendar day through the years–July 15th, the day for a certain English saint who is buried in Winchester. We start in 1988, when Emma (Hathaway) and Dex (Jim Sturgess) are celebrating graduation (they graduate kind of late in the year in England). They really don’t know each other too well, but Hathaway has a crush on him, and they spend a night together, although chastely, and decide they will be just friends (it takes a bit of acting on Sturgess’s part to convince me he would turn Hathaway down–I think he was turned off by her putting Tracy Chapman on her record player).

We then are shown every July 15th in successive years, all they way to 2010. Hathaway wastes her education by sporting a sombrero in a Tex-Mex restaurant. Dex teaches English in India, but then becomes a TV host for some sort of late-night music program. He is wildly successful, but turns into an asshole, and is later called the most annoying man on the telly (he must have been the British equivalent of Ryan Seacrest).

Hathaway takes up with a fellow waiter, (Rafe Spall) an aspiring comedian, and then writes a successful children’s novel and moves to Paris. Sturgess ends up married to an icy blonde (Romola Garai). The feelings between the two linger, though, even when Hathaway ends it after Sturgess shows up for dinner coked out of his mind.

I won’t go any further that that, as most smart viewers will see certain things coming. There’s a dramatic twist at the end that I should have seen coming, but only spotted seconds before it occurred. This scene will make many viewers roll their eyes, but it kept with the melodramatic nature of the film.

I did appreciated that, though there are some coincidences, being that the film is limited to action on July 15th, that not everything happens on that day. There are a couple of weddings in the film, neither of which are on that day, and other momentous events happen off-screen. This gives the film a much more realistic feeling.

One Day was directed by Lone Scherfig, who also made the far superior An Education, but her talent is evident here, taking what could have been a throwaway weepie into something more intricate. This is helped not only by Hathaway (Sturgess isn’t bad, but he’s outshone by his leading lady, something that James Franco can relate to) but by a witty script by David Nicholls, who wrote the book it’s based on. He also wrote the book and script for the charming Starter for Ten, and there’s a lot of great lines in One Day, usually spoken by Hathaway. She says of her new, tattered apartment, “It smells of onions and disappointment,” and describes her conservative swimsuit, “It’s a swimming costume. It’s called the Edwardian.”

My grade for One Day: B

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

3 responses »

  1. The guy turns down the woman in the beginning.
    Immediately and without reading any further, your argument *for* this movie is invalid.
    Never in any way, shape or form does a man turn down sex from a beautiful woman…unless he is gay, or has a disease and a modicum of scruples. NO. MAN.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised by this and am largely in agreement with Jackrabbit Slim’s positive views on the film. Craftily done and making the concept of the film an advantage instead of a disadvantage. And it was actually pretty convincing in conveying the gradual changes in style and culture of the 1990s & 2000s (one of the more difficult time periods to recreate).

    If you wanted to quibble you could argue that it seemed a stretch that the two central characters would stay in touch when they had such wildly different careers and lifestyles (and socio-economic statuses) during the 1990s.

    Based on this and “An Education” Scherfig is one of the more impressive directors going around atm so it’s unfortunate her most recent film (The Riot Club) largely sank without trace.

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