If You Love Love, You’ll Love “One Day”
By Skip Sheffield
A lot can change in one day. In the romantic comedy “One Day,” two college graduates meet on St. Swithin’s Day, July 15, and have an impetuous fling that changes their lives- but not right away.
St. Swithin has no bearing on University of Edinburgh graduates Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) other than it is a funny name reference in David Nicholls’ novel “One Day.”
Nicholls adapted his novel and tapped Danish director Lone Scherfig (“An Education”) to helm this project. While the story somewhat resembles the play “Same Time, Next Year,” there are important differences. This is not about an affair. It is about friendship that blossoms into love.
The fact that Scherfig is a woman with subtle sensibility helps balance the equation. “One Day” is equally about man and woman, and how they love.
On that fateful graduation day July 15, 1988, Emma and Dexter meet. She is a serious-minded scholar with big Harry Potter wire-rim glasses and minimal makeup. He is a glib, handsome, frivolous playboy type rather spoiled by his doting mother (Patricia Clarkson) and a gruff but loving father (Ken Stott).
Even when she is dressed-down, Anne Hathaway (with convincing British accent) is a radiantly beautiful woman. Jim Sturgess is a remarkably good-looking guy, so they make an appealing couple. When they impulsively make love on the night they meet, we intuit this will be more than a one-night stand, even though the morning after in the glare of day they vow to “just be friends.”
And so on July 15 over the course of 20 years, Emma and Dexter meet and part again and again. Her trajectory is upward. She becomes a teacher, then writes the book she has always been threatening to do.
Dexter’s personality and good looks make him ideal for television. For awhile Dexter’s career and finances soar as host of his own vapid, glitzy TV show.
Emma acquires a determined admirer in Ian (Rafe Spall), an aspiring comic who works a day job at the same restaurant Emma works.
Ian is a fool, but he is played with great dignity by Spall, and Emma is such a compassionate person, we can see her befriending him out of pity.
But we the viewers and readers know Emma and Dexter are destined for each other. When they meet in picturesque locales such as Paris and Calais, the mood is rapturous. Guided by Scherfig, Hathaway and Sturgess make us feel the giddy elation of love. Conversely, we feel love’s flip side, the depths of despair.
“One Day” is a first-class weeper. It is also an ideal date movie. I suggest seeing it with someone you love. You may just get lucky.