One Day (Focus Features, PG-13)

The structure lends itself to weightier fare that targets an intelligent audience, but here it is used only in the service of a bad, manipulative romantic drama.

 

 

The contention of One Day, based on the bestselling David Nicholls novel of the same name, is interesting; the movie examines the relationship of Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) in its various stages, and the entirety of the movie takes place on one specific day (July 15th) in many different years, so you jump from point to point over the course of their meeting, friendship, and eventual romantic relationship. The film starts out in 1988 when Emma and Dexter are 22 and just graduating from college, but it takes them a while to get together—the way the film plays out is much more Four Weddings and a Funeral than it is Blue Valentine, and while I like both of those films, One Day would have worked a lot better had it skewed closer to the Blue Valentine route.

Wait, did I mention yet that One Day is awful? Despite its potential, basically every single aspect of it fails. The two leads are pretty thoroughly dislikeable (particularly Sturgess as Dexter), important events always happen rather dubiously on July 15th so you never miss any of the good stuff, director Lone Scherfig holds the audience’s hand a little too much as if we’re all going to have trouble keeping track of things from year to year, none of the actions the characters take are believable, and toward the end it veers toward blatant audience manipulation rather than carefully constructing a good, earned finale. Also, a wall of unrelatability is put up by the fact that both Emma and Dexter are very successful people—Dexter hosts a television program and Emma becomes a popular children’s writer. Why couldn’t they have been more normal people? I think that would have made for a much more interesting film. But then, like I said, there is a much more interesting film that is like that—Blue Valentine.

I think that points to the biggest problem of One Day’s—the structure lends itself to weightier fare that targets an intelligent audience, but here it is used only in the service of a bad, manipulative romantic drama that has no eye for subtlety and targets stupid people. It’s a huge disappointment coming from Scherfig, whose last film was the excellent An Education, which is everything One Day is not. So, if I haven’t made myself clear, if you’re thinking about seeing One Day, instead you should watch (or rewatch) Four Weddings and a Funeral, or Blue Valentine, or An Education, or basically anything else. There is no good reason to see this movie. | Pete Timmermann

 

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