I assumed that since I was enamored with Lone Scherfig's previous offering An Education that by default I would also enjoy her newest work One Day. When the film began the title cards and minimalist cinematography seemed to assure this film to be one that I would enjoy, however, as the film paced along it slowly became apparent that it was nothing like An Education, but instead a rather underwhelming film. It does not lack from excellent acting, but from something missing, the characters are never fully developed and are unbelievable, they just appear to drift through the film without evolution or self-realization. In fact, the characters are only believable in their first few scenes, before it becomes painfully clear that they phoned the entire thing in. Sadly, I cannot comprehend why such a failure occurred, given that I like the director involved and both actors playing the lead roles, therefore, my next place of blame went to David Nicholls and his writing, yet that seems not to be the problem. Instead, I can only posit that it is one of those rare occasions in which too many good things come together resulting in a film that looses focuses by simply displaying what it has good to offer, without having a set of checks and balances to assure the quality of the good. One Day is a dud of a film that sparks with a quick flare only to die out uninspiringly.
One Day, as the title suggests, follows a couple who become romantically involved during the night and morning following their college graduation. The couple, like any good romantic drama, are complete opposites. First is the bookish and reserved Emma (Anne Hathaway) who appears to have her future planned in great detail and the sly and suave Dexter (Jim Sturgess) who throws caution to the wind and plans to let his future unfold as fate sees fit. The two after drinking and finding each other absolutely fascinating, as friends, agree to keep in contact, and meet as often as they can on the same day each year. The first few years find Dexter in great success, while Emma hits a wall of reality that places her working at a Mexican restaurant while she attempts to jump start her writing career. As time passes, Dexter's mom passes away and he has trouble dealing with his delusional life full of drugs and random sexual encounters, while Emma settles with a local aspiring comedian and undertakes teaching at a local school. Both Emma and Dexter begin to drift through life, taking turns pursuing one another, as they realize that their only source of happiness comes from their togetherness. After much strife, and a complete downward spiral the two are finally able to reconnect and marry almost immediately. Things seem great until Emma is fatally hit by a bus, which leads Dexter into another spiral of self-destruction. However, after a rare heart-to-heart with his father he realizes that to honor Emma he must actually continue life to the fullest. The film then closes in a flashback of the couple's first encounter in which they almost engage in romantic acts, only to be blocked by Dexter's parents. It implies that their relationship could have begun more than twenty years earlier, if not for the tragedy of life getting in the way.
I really struggled to find a critical approach to One Day, mostly because I found myself so detached from the movie as a whole. As such, it seems that the best thing I can offer is a blanket critique of the film's reaffirming of heteronormative relationships. It is a mainstream romantic drama that offers nothing fresh or unusual to the study of a relationship, when you compare this film to something like Gus Van San'ts Restless or Spike Lee's Jungle Fever; it seems like a terribly traditional film. I am not dismissing all films that focus on heteronormative filmmaking, as it was the only acceptable format for romantic images for much of filmic history. However, with a film in 2011 it can be said that to display an entire film that involves normal relationships is regressive. I understand that the film is based on a previous literary work, but Scherfig could certainly use her own poetic license to insert a relationship that pushes boundaries. In fact, the only relationship that is unconventional is the one between Dexter's parents given that his mother has cancer, but even this is not a point of unconventional narrative. This ailment while crippling does not necessitate the film to be about a love between a handicapped person and a fully able person, even this touch would have helped to detract from the normalcy. Ultimately, this never happens, and is a plausible explanation as to why the film is so unwatchable.
One Day is a sold 3 star movie as far as Netflix is concerned. Unless you are an unwavering Anne Hathaway fan there is really no reason to watch this film. I would suggest Scherfig's An Education over this without waiver.