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One Day

John Taylor reviews the highly-anticipated film adaptation of David Nicholls’ hugely popular book One Day. crack

Following a scintillating summer of superheroes and sequels, many of you may be looking forward to the change of cinematic pace that so often coincides with the impending ‘return to school’. At the forefront of the return of a product which, whilst still intended to entertain, hopes to engage more on a cerebral and emotional level is Lone Scherfig’s adaptation of the David Nicholls bestseller ‘One Day’.

For those, like myself, unfamiliar with the source novel, the narrative follows the lives of Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) from a chance meeting on the eve of their 1988 graduation, through the following 20 years of a friendship on the perpetual cusp of romance. The trick is that each time we meet our characters, it falls upon the same day, 15th July.

Unfortunately it is the high concept of these ‘one day’ reunions that fails to succeed on screen where it has apparently done so on the page. Some of these days make sense and enthral the audience; others are underdeveloped and leave us wanting that little bit more. Hathaway and Sturgess both deliver believable performances, despite the unnecessary media attention Hathaway’s accent has attracted. Both succeed with the realisation of a 20-year-long character development, portraying the changes each individual has undertaken physically, mentally and of course emotionally, whilst maintaining the constant chemistry Emma and Dexter are supposed to share.

The screenplay was adapted by David Nicholls himself so retains key interactions and dialogue between our two leads (or so my partner reliably attests); and Lone Scherfig’s direction is assured if not expansive, handling the change in period well, as may be expected following the excellent ‘An Education’. These things when married with the performances of the cast make for an enjoyable ‘relationship movie’, and though the film delivers moments of comedy a ‘rom-com’ this is not; with several scenes packed with emotion you should leave the auditorium feeling suitably invested.

However there may well be a nagging feeling of having missed something and this is where I feel One Day fails to match its potential. That ‘missing something’ is recurrent in literary adaptations, as compromises have to be made in order to realise the page on screen. That’s not to say the film is inaccessible to those who have or have not read the book, as both parties should come away from the film engaged and entertained. Scherfig’s film is a solid representation of a novel fast regarded by many as a piece of literary excellence, and the knowledge of that never seems to leave you.