One Day is an adaptation by David Nicholls of his widely read romantic novel which tells the will-they won’t-they story of a pair of mutually attracted friends over the course of twenty years or so. The book’s popularity is largely down to Nicholls’s ability to inhabit his characters and let his readers care about the many ups and downs they go through – sadly, the film is somewhat less successful at engaging its audience (or this member of it, at least).
The principal gimmick in the book is that each chapter takes place on the same day – July 15th – of successive years, starting with the day that the two main characters first meet as recent Edinburgh graduates, and the film adheres to this structure faithfully. A little too faithfully, actually, as this means that the action is being broken up every five minutes or so by the on-screen titles that let the audience know where we are chronologically, and you can’t help thinking that the choppy and episodic feel of the piece could have been avoided by skipping some of the less eventful years and combining certain scenes into more freely flowing sequences. The film also suffers due to the unsympathetic nature of one of its protagonists: while Emma is bright, resourceful, funny and dedicated, and brought to life very nicely by Anne Hathaway, whose Yorkshire accent is surprisingly convincing most of the time, Jim Sturgess’s Dexter is near impossible to invest any kind of positive feeling in. He’s callow, vain, over-privileged and eminently hateable for most of the film’s running time. It’s possible that the character might have worked if he’d been played by an actor with the charisma of the young Hugh Grant and given genuinely witty dialogue but here he just comes across like an arse.
The movie’s not a total write-off though. It cracks along at such a pace that there isn’t much chance of anyone getting bored, and there’s some quality support work from Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott as Dexter’s concerned parents, and Rafe Spall, who seems uncannily reminiscent of Little Britain‘s David Walliams as Emma’s hopeless boyfriend Ian. Readers of the book will want to know how one particular plot point is handled, and without wanting to drop any spoilers I can report that director Lone Scherfig gets the tone here precisely right. So, an average-to-OK movie from a pretty good book – probably not the first or last one of those you’ve come across.