Stars: Jim Sturgess, Ann Hathaway and Patricia Clarkson
The thing about a book-made-into-a-film is that it SO rarely lives up to the expectations created by it’s literary counterpart, it's almost futile even drawing a comparison. If you discount the novel they originate from, some of them are actually pretty good. Harry Potter for example. But Harry Potter, the book, a pearl of brilliance that Rowling unleashed from the oceanic depths of her imagination, a complex tale of such terrific clarity as compared to the movie? Nah, I didn’t think so. Books allow for interpretation and improvisation that renders them a script for every individual reader; the set, the characters all left to the readers’ colourful imagination. So how possibly can a film then deliver to each creative mind that has already conjured expectations of how and where the story should take place? Simple. It can’t. And so the story goes with One Day. Dubbed a "social novel", the movie primarily lacks exactly that; there's no mention of student protest against tuition fees, neither heated conversation about the Iraq war. If you blink, you'll miss the feeble reference to that "era" when organic food went large and Dexter's courageous venture to regain financial by cashing in on it. David Nicholls’s very smart but subtle anchoring of this saga in 1990s England is a totally lost cause on the film. Unfortunately, this leaves nothing more that another common love story a la When Harry Met Sally.
If you haven't read the book, let me enlighten you. One Day, the title, refers to St Swithin’s Day. That's to say 15th July, the date in 1988 when Edinburgh university students Emma Morley (wears wire-rim glasses, has an anti-nuclear night shirt and listens to Tracy Chapman records) and Dexter Mayhew (Winchester-educated Casanova) spent their graduation night together. The story then maps the pair of them on the same day every year thereafter. There are years they get on, years they don't. Years they’re together and years they don’t talk. And while the book has the patience to describe the entire journey, unfortunately the film cuts out entire years, leaving you at loss for how and why the characters evolve. It’s episodic structure is both erratic and impersonal, giving little time or scope to get acquainted or attached to either of these characters that are so absolutely lovable in the novel.
Emma is played by Anne Hathaway, an actress who is, as many people have pointed out, an American. And her accent isn't the thick Yorkshire tyke that constitutes such a large part of Em's anti-tory, anti-nuclear weapon personality. Hathaway shifts somewhat erratically between soft-headed 'Northernisms' and posh 'Estuaryisms' (think Bridget Jones). And it gives her away. Unfortunately, more often that not it’s the settings that are more charismatic than the leads - the dingy Mexican restaurant in London at which Emma works, the airy escape Emma finds in Paris and the city of Edinburgh by dawn renders a cinematic feast for the eyes.
The films not completely unwatchable, but if like us, you’ve read the book, expect at the end to turn to whoever you are watching it with and say, “that wasn’t as good as the book”.