Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess can both act, that much is certain, which makes it all the more annoying to see them turning up in a love story as average as this.
Based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls, One Day tells the story of Dexter (Sturgess) and Emma (Hathaway) and their lifelong will they/won’t they love affair. The pair meet at college, where they almost get it together on the night of graduation, but end up deciding to remain friends.
The audience is then brought through the ups-and-downs of their friendship over the next 20 years, focusing on where the characters are on the same ‘one day’ each year - July 15. Emma pines away for Dexter, while he lives a life of excess - drugs, drink, women and fame.
Emma fritters away her post-graduation years working in a restaurant, moans about London swallowing her up, becomes a schoolteacher and falls into a loveless relationship - wishing that Dexter had swept her off her feet.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is; the story of unrequited love has been depicted many times on the big screen and why not? The problem about One Day is that about halfway through, you know Emma and Dexter will end up getting together and you really don’t care!
The film tries to gain leverage for its characters by contrasting the two leads’ lives: success versus failure, confidence versus timidity. This is most evident when Emma attends a school play, while at the same time Dexter interviews rap stars on a TV show.
The film also brings Dexter’s family life into the story and builds a large part of the film around his mother’s battle with cancer, with Clarkson playing the mother. This is one of the film’s few good areas and strikes a chord. However, it is one good story-strand lost in a sea of mediocrity. In addition, there is no back-story for Emma. We know virtually nothing of her home life and are left grasping for who she really is.
The finish throws up a massive twist, just when it seems everything is going to end happily ever after. It may work in the original novel of the same name, but in the film, it seems contrived and tacked on as an afterthought to revive an ailing script and hopefully jolt the viewer out of his or her slumber.
There are some genuinely funny moments in One Day and both actors have charm, which at times transcends the dull script, but not enough to elevate this film beyond the mundane. That said, it is sure to attract fans of the book in droves.
Is this worth a watch? In my view, if you want to see a love story, you would be better off staying at home and watching When Harry Met Sally or Shakespeare in Love. Or, even better, Wings of Desire.
But, if you’re looking for a more conventional romance, then One Day will do just fine.