“Why isn’t anyone in this theater moving?” my husband asked as the credits rolled at the end of One Day. “Maybe they’ve all slit their throats,” he whispered to me. “It wasn’t that bad,” I said, trying to calm him down. But, honestly, I think this “romance drama" is one of the most painfully unromantic movies I’ve ever seen. And it’s pure torture to watch. That’s probably why I heard so much snoring at the screening we attended. More than a few viewers opted for a little snooze instead of paying attention to what was happening on screen.
With first-rate talent attached to this movie, my expectations were high. Director Lone Scherfig won me over previously with her splendid work helming the charming An Education. Writer David Nicholls did a masterful job adapting his Starter for 10 novel for the big screen, and I thought he would do the same with One Day, another book he wrote and adapted. Actor Jim Sturgess wowed me in 21 and Across the Universe. Plus I’ve enjoyed the lovely Anne Hathaway in such films as The Devil Wears Prada and Ella Enchanted.
How could One Day go wrong? Here are two things that bothered me the most about this film:
■ “One day” turns into “twenty-three days” (if I’m counting correctly), and viewers are exposed to Emma (Hathaway) and Dex (Sturgess) -- two young people who meet each other on July 15, 1988 -- as they appear in truncated sequences on each July 15th until 2011. After reaching about 1995, is it any wonder audience members start to groan?
■ Emma and Dex come across as more annoying than appealing. It’s hard to empathize with two people who take so long to realize they were meant for each other no matter how different they are. He’s out to have fun; she’s more serious minded. He’s cocky; she pouts a lot. But, as the old saying goes, opposites attract. They like each other immediately, become pals, then good friends, and finally … well, you can finish this sentence. However, don’t expect a When Harry Met Sally type of story here. One Day focuses more on the trials and tribulations of a relationship than on humor -- which this screen adaptation lacks.
I haven’t read the novel by Nicholls, but I imagine it does a better job of presenting the July 15th sequences in terms of the characters’ thought processes and feelings than the film does. And it probably includes some amusing interactions as well as more explanations about the off-putting behavior of Emma and Dex.
Regarding the performances, Hathaway and Sturgess manage to project the spark of friendship between Emma and Dex, but the fiery chemistry of love -- so important in a romantic drama -- seems missing. Hathaway’s rapid British accent is difficult to understand in spots, and Sturgiss (SPOILER ALERT) appears uncomfortable in the role of someone even his own mother (Patricia Clarkson) ends up disliking. Fine supporting cast members, like the marvelous Clarkson, have very little camera time, which is a shame.
Hair styles and fashions change rapidly in One Day, and that helps clue us into the passing of time. However, time passes much too slowly here. By the end of the film, I heaved a huge sigh of relief because it was finally over.
(Released by Focus Features and rated “PG-13” for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse.)
For more information about One Day, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.