After one day together - July 15th, 1988 - Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) begin a friendship that will last a lifetime. She is a working-class girl of principle and ambition who dreams of making the world a better place. He is a wealthy charmer who dreams that the world will be his playground. For the next two decades, key moments of their relationship are experienced over several July 15ths in their lives.
What we thought:
As an ardent book-lover, I've had the misfortune of seeing some pretty horrendous film adaptations of brilliant reads that were butchered due to:
a) low-budget production
b) lame book-to-movie script translation and
c ) lousy acting as a result of miscasting.
The list of movies is long and the myriad faults endless, but we all know that sometimes Hollywood just gets it completely wrong.
And then along comes a movie like One Day.
Based on the best-selling novel by David Nicholls, the story spans over 20 years and chronicles the lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, two people whose paths cross on the day of their university graduation. Over the intervening years we are given a glimpse into their lives on the same day each year, 15 July, as we are left to fill in the blanks and draw our own conclusions as to how Emma and Dexter's relationship has progressed.
The premise is deceptively simple but works incredibly well as Nicholls has not only managed to create characters that are engaging, flawed and not always very likeable. He also creates the sense that their lives flow continuously in a series of bohemian, contrasting snapshots that are like a series of film reels and make for compulsive reading.
I wasn't sure if Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) could actually manage to capture these moments on screen, but she surprises with an adequate and at times inspiring rendition of what is, on paper, a beautiful tale.
Part of the reason I think this movie works so well is that the author himself adapted his book to screenplay. Nicholls understands the inner workings of adapting a novel to the big screen as he comes from a screenplay writing background himself.
There were certainly a few changes to the script, but the dialogue mostly struck true and followed the book and its format very closely.
The cast of One Day also delivered a surprising, although not always perfect, performance.
Hathaway, in spite of being criticised for her awful Yorkshire accent (something which didn't really bother me at all) is convincing in the role of the self-deprecating, chronically awkward and self-conscious Emma.
The lines do seem to blur a bit as she never seems fully committed to the tricky regional accent, which is quite unlike the generic British accent many of us may be accustomed to, but as the movie progresses Anne gradually eases into the role.
Unknowingly, she mirrors Emma's transformation from gawky college kid to blossoming woman, which made the movie ring all the more true to the book.
Sturgess, in the role of the wealthy, charming and arrogant Dexter is, for the most part, very convincing, although it does feel as if there were parts of his story that were omitted, which resulted in his character development over the 20 years feeling incomplete compared to Anne Hathaway's.
Despite this, One Day is a beautifully produced movie with many heartfelt moments that will leave you charmed and more than a little in love with Emma, Dexter and their epic love story.
A word of advice: There are a lot of movies that you can get away with watching even if you haven’t read the book, but to my mind, One Day is not one of them. Make sure you read the book before you watch the movie. You'll have a much deeper appreciation for the scrapbook-come-to-life movie format.