When the capably cut promo materials for a film are more capable of eliciting an emotional reaction than the nearly two-hour feature, you know something is wrong. One Day, Lone Scherfig's adaptation of David Nicholls' bestseller and the Danish director's follow-up to the Oscar-nominated and generally warmly received An Education, opened in August to occasionally scathing but largely indifferent reviews. The film was still a success at the box office, making well over three times it's modest budget. Perhaps producers were hoping for a haul along the lines of Love And Other Drugs, another Anne Hathaway starrer that broke $100 million, but this well-acted but tonally flat film was unlikely to connect with audiences beyond the initial haul.
This is the story of Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess, continuing to put in acceptable but not outstanding work), who meet July 15th of1988 and spend a sexless but romantically tinged night-into-dawn together. From that point, Scherfig's film returns to each of the leads year after year on the same day, watching as their lifelines intersect or stray away. It could be an effective gimmick, but the lack of a consistent emotional hook leaves the viewer stranded as years flash across the screen but feel largely extraneous. Remove the timeline and the film wouldn't change a bit.
Pacing, or rather padding, is another hobbling issue for this film. There are simply too many scenes afforded to Emma and Dex tiptoeing around the giant elephant in the room - their romance is less whirlwind and more windmill, and we are treated time and again to womanizing Dexter on the tip of confessing his love for Emma, a girl who blossoms from shy movie frumpiness into a confident, intelligent woman. It's not very compelling and as the stakes drift away, you are left whiling away the runtime, waiting for the two would-be lovers to finally fall into each other's arms.
That said, Benoit Delhomme's cinematography is accomplished and makes the film pleasing to the eye while Rachel Portman's score is unobtrusive and sweet. Scherfig is a capable director, but this film is beyond her considerable skills. Not having read Nicholls' novel, this writer can't vouch to the authenticity of the adaptation, but with a script contributed by the author, this is probably the closest we'll get. Hathaway and Sturgess are both easy to look at, but their banter feels warmed-over and cliché. Meanwhile, Patricia Clarkson as Dexter's mother and Rafe Spall as Emma's brief love interest leads a supporting cast that recedes into the background to give space to the leads' romantic pandering.
One Day was no doubt hurt by the strong advertising effort that preceded its release, but now that the film is out on DVD, it's easier to train an unbiased critical eye on it. Not a bad film, but not a particular good one either, what could have been a sweeping romance that drew contrasts and comparisons over decades while zooming in on a single day out of a year fizzles out, in love with the same old.
Seeing as how it's a studio release, the sharp and detailed 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer provided is fairly flawless, a testament to the affable strengths of Delhomme's cinematography. Even the nighttimes scenes, bathed in a pleasing bluish tint, are clean.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is perfect for this type of film, balancing Portman's lilting, occasionally emotional score with rarely-peaking dialogue and some environmental soundwork. Solid.
The decidedly promotional talking head extras will offer little insight for those who do enjoy the film. The "Deleted Scenes" ) (4:47 offer a couple of extraneous character building moments. "Em and Dex: Through the Years" (3:41) is almost an extended trailer with special attention given to Hathaway's excitement for the project. Finally, the "The Look of One Day"(5:25) is split up into three segments - Making a 20-Year Love Story, Creating Emma with Anne, and Dexter's Transformation. All three reuse some of the promotional footage and offer little in way of an actual behind-the-scenes look. Also included is a Director's Commentary, with Lone Sherfig delving into the technical aspects of shooting while displaying very fine English.
This writer enjoyed One Day the same way one would snuggle up to half remembered dream on a particularly lazy day. It's a welcome distraction if you're in the right mood, but little more.
For other views on this film, please check out reviews by my colleagues Aaron Beierle (DVD) and Thomas Spurlin (Blu-ray).
The best of the five boroughs is now represented. Brooklyn in the house! I'm a hardworking film writer, blogger, boyfriend and hopeful Corgi owner. Find me on Twitter @markzhur and on Tumblr at Our Elaborate Plans...