Can you find the love of your life and not know it for decades? That’s what One Day posits about Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), a pair of friends from different sides of the coin. She dreams of being a poet, coming from working-class roots and has desires of making the world a better place. He’s the son of privilege, viewing the world as his play thing. Over the next 20 years we see the pair as they deal with their lives on July 15th, the anniversary of their first meeting.
Based off the novel of the same name, adapted by the author, the film appears to be the story of two lost souls who find one another over time. The problem is that the film mainly focuses on Dexter’s story, on his transition from a bit of a romantic vagabond to the kind of man ready to be with Emma, and neglects her story almost entirely. She’s a prop, ready and waiting for him to finally pick her up, as opposed to a fully functioning character with her own character arc, etc.
It’s rather disappointing because this is a film with a fairly solid performance from Anne Hathaway. She’s been a staple of a handful of romantic comedies for a reason and it’s because she delivers strong performances for the genre. She’s given little screen time in comparison to the weight of her character in the film and yet we care about her and Dexter’s friendship throughout because Hathaway is great in the role. This isn’t brilliant, as she’s been better recently in Love and Other Drugs, but it’s a step above the usual for the genre.
It helps Jim Sturgess, who has a fairly uneven performance throughout the film. The film has two main levels: Sturgess with Hathaway and Sturgess without her. Whenever they’re in the same scene they have magic together. Without her around his performance suffers; he says at one point in the film about how much better he is and it’s a weird meta-moment in a way. Sturgess is much stronger as an actor with her and without her the film drags.
Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, as the film’s main plot points revolve around the two together, but this film is essentially his story. There are points in his life where he has to grow without her around and Sturgess doesn’t have that extra gear to turn the film up. We care about Dexter because of how he’s around Emma but without her much less so. It’s a problem for Sturgess but it’s also a bit of a scripting problem as well.
Dexter’s character flaws are painted in two very different lights depending on whether or not Emma is around or not. They’re a bit subdued and don’t seem obnoxious with her; without her he’s a bit of a jerk who figures it all out as he grows older. The film demands a brilliant all around performance from him in order to really work and he never can really pull it together. It’s perfectly acceptable and solid, enough to make the film entertaining but not enough to bring it away from the pack of the genre.
When all is said and done, One Day is a fairly forgettable film that will be another footnote on the cinematic resumes of Hathaway and Sturgess And it’s a shame, really, because the film could’ve been much more.
Director: Lone Scherfig Notable Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson Writer(s): David Nicholls based off his novel “One Day”
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.