“One Day” or “I Want to Care buuuuuut I Don’t”

Posted on May 3, 2013

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I went to see One Day, Released at the end of 2011, after a break up. I’ve often thought what I’d do with a time machine, and I can safely say now that I would go back to that day and stop myself from seeing this film. Not only was it pretty bad (more on that later), but I also found myself cursing the heavens over Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma’s (Anne Hathaway) inability to get it together. Why do we do that to ourselves? Torture ourselves with rom-coms (or rom-drams in this case) when we’re heartbroken? I don’t know, but we should probably stop for the sake of our collective sanity.

The film opens with Anne Hathaway on a bicycle cruising through London on 15th July 2006, the clock then rewinds to the same date in 1988. It is dawn and a group of university students have finished their graduation revelry. Dexter and Emma meet after their friends spontaneously start macking face, so naturally (because they’re drunk students) they go back to Emma’s house. Their class differences are quickly established, and the characters are at their most charming in these moments.

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess sucking face as Emma and Dexter.

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess sucking face as Emma and Dexter.

The only reason I was watching this in the first place is because I’m reading the book. And I know this is one thing that everyone hates film critics to say, but I really think the book is infinitely better. And sadly this is mainly because I actually care about the characters on the page far more than those on screen. Dexter in the film is insufferable and insipid, while Emma is lacking in conviction. I don’t believe for one moment that Anne’s Emma would call Dexter’s father a fascist. The root of the problem seems to come from the direction. I am disappointed to know that Lone Scherfig (director) also helmed An Education, one of the finest coming-of-age films of the last decade; One Day could have been so much better.

The film checks back in with Dexter and Emma on the anniversary of their meeting every year, and it is lovely to watch how lives can progress—or not. There are also some fantastic familiar faces, such as Ian (Rafe Spall), Emma’s hapless stand-up boyfriend and Sylvie (Ramola Garai), Dexter’s snooty wife. The thing is, I found myself thinking I’d like to watch spin-offs about Ian and Sylvie’s lives than Dexter and Emma’s . . . not the ideal response, surely. Must pause here to mention Matt Berry’s (Snuff Box and Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place) short appearance as Aaron.

One Day 2

The period detail gimmick is a good one – the production details elevate this film.

So what’s the solution? Well I’d avoid the film for starters, and if you’ve seen it, please feel free to vent in the comments about how much you hated, or loved One Day. I would recommend reading the book because, even though it’s no literary masterpiece, it is certainly better than watching Dexter and Emma attempt to navelgaze their way into each other’s hearts on screen.

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg’s resident film reviewer. Her column, Here. Hare. Here. is released every Friday. 

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