One Day is a bitter disappointment for lovers of the book
PUBLISHED: 16:05 26 August 2011
One Day (12A) Director Lone Scherfig Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Rafe Spall, Ken Stott, Patricia Clarkson and Jodie Whittaker 108 mins
»My experience as a follower of films is constantly shaped and assailed by the tastes of The Readers. Their inexplicable whims have forced upon us hours of Harry Potter, Twilight, The Da Vinci Code, The Girl With/Who trilogy, The Horse Whisperer, etc. They are capricious and wilful and, last year, they suddenly swarmed, en masse, to a little book called One Day and turned its author, David Nicholls, into a new Nick Hornby.
On the last day of university, Dexter (Sturgess) and Emma (Hathaway) spend the night together. But they fail to become lovers and end up as frustrated firm friends. The story then drops in on them on that exact same day (St Swithin’s Day as in the Billy Bragg song) over the next 20 years.
He is a strutting womanising pillock, while she is the earnest plain Jane and their narrative is basically that of Forrest Gump. He goes off and has a wild time in the world of TV boozing, taking coke and shagging around.She stays in and tries to do some writing, becomes a teacher and makes do with her unfunny stand-up comic boyfriend (Spall.)
The Readers are most upset with the casting of the two leads. In her previous film, An Education, Scherfig managed to make Lynn Barber seem likeable but she can’t do the same with Sturgess’s Dexter.
The British actor has always seemed to possess a really natural, unforced charm on screen, but has tended to play the put-upon or uncertain. Here he is asked to exude confidence and privilege and it feels forced.
In the 90s, Dexter becomes a presenter on a parody of The Word for which he puts on a street accent. This provokes lots of remarks about his “ridiculous accent” but it is no less implausible than the well-spoken one he attempts for the other scenes.
In comparison, American Hathaway has a perfectly serviceable non-specific English accent (as demonstrated in Becoming Jane). The role, though, calls for her to be northern – so once every few years a little touch of Yorkshire will slip in and then not be heard again for another five or so. She is also, of course, far too pretty for the role, she doesn’t scrub down well.
Nicholls’ previous book Starter For Ten was made into a really lovely comedy (which nobody went to see) and its two leads, James McAvoy and Rebecca Hall, would have been just perfect for this film.
The supporting cast fare little better. Spall’s Ian is presented as a stinky, slobby prole who isn’t worthy of being in the presence of our star-crossed pair and the film practically holds its nose whenever he’s on screen. (Compare his treatment with that of Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill.) Spall does at least register. Apparently Whittaker is in there somewhere as a major character but she gets completely overlooked.
Where do the years go, eh? One Day is shallow, unfunny and over much too quickly. The film is truthful in one aspect – the years fly past and amount to so much less than you’d hoped for.