In One Day, Anne Hathaway is Emma, a British college graduate, who has a crush on Dexter (Jim Sturgess). On the day of their graduation on July 15th, 1988, Emma and Dex spend the night together and make a promise to catch up each year on that day to see where they both are in their lives and careers. One Day is a snapshot of 23 years in their relationship. Each scene in One Day is one particular year in the relationship of Emma and Dexter. Sometimes they spend the day together, other times they don’t. But they’re always on each other’s mind on that day.
Some might say that there’s simply too much gaps to be filled by such a premise. But the movie flows smoothly and doesn’t feel dragged out, mostly due to it being directed by the same man that brought the world An Education in 2009: Lone Scherfig. Instead of filling in the dull details and making this a three hour movie, Scherfig alludes to what happened in the year that past with each subsequent scene. Say Emma got an advance to write a book, you find the book already published in the next frame of the movie and so on and so forth.
One Day can be divided into three parts with each part representing a phase of the relationship between Dex and Emma. The first two thirds are closer in structure to each other than they are to the third even though the movie ends up wrapping up perfectly, with a little nice bow to top it all off.
Anne Hathaway as Emma tries her best to be British in the movie and for the entire length of it, she somehow pulls it off. Sure, there are moments where the role escapes her but in the grand picture, this is not the case. Hathaway is, really, a great actress. And for her role in Emma, although it feels a little restrained at times, possibly due to the nature of the character, her performance is still nuanced and emotive. You can see her showcase the struggles and the life of Emma and at times she manages to do so brilliantly. It’s definitely not her best work, however, but one cannot but see the true potential Hathaway brings to any movie she is part of. She is one of those rare actresses that have managed to escape the frame set for them by their debut Disney movie and transcended into giving the world great cinematic features. The best is yet to come from her.
Jim Sturgess, with Dexter to play with, is confident and charming as his character should be. But the moments he truly shines in delivering are those where, despite the strong exterior of Dexter, you can feel the sadness build inside him: the sadness of not reaching his desired goals in life, the sadness of losing his mother, the sadness of seeing Emma slip away, etc…
Sturgess and Hathaway nail their parts in One Day. Perhaps it would have been easier to bring British actors and actresses to do this movie. But what fun would that be? One Day is a quirky movie about a life. To have it be as authentic as possible, somehow perfect dialect would have rendered the movie less effective.
One Day is a realistic movie of a friendship. If you seek escapism in your movies, this is not the movie for you. The characters don’t always get to their goals in life and in their relationships. They don’t get to see each other whenever they want. There’s disappointment. But there’s also fulfillment. There are moments of sadness. But there are also moments of sheer happiness. Ultimately, the movie is similar to all our lives: we are but a collection of memories, some that fade away and others that are worth holding on to.