Film critics can be such heartless bastards at times. I’ve read many assassinations of One Day (2011) in the last 24-hours, and although I expected lots of whining and over-intellectualised prose, I was hoping Lone Scherfig’s follow up to An Education (2009) would have gained more favourable reviews.
I have one simple rule when it comes to critiquing other people’s work: if you make me cry, then you have achieved something remarkable. Laughs are ten-a-penny and thought-provocation is no great shakes, but if you can stir-up someone’s emotions and get the tears flowing freely then your creation is worth a damn.
For the last 20-minutes of One Day, I was a weeping wreck. Some reviewers have expressed anger and claimed they felt manipulated into caring about the protagonists, but I find that perspective ridiculous. All good cinema manipulates the emotions and it’s snobbish and pompous to slate a film just because it’s not a masterpiece of acting and direction.
Based on David Nicholls’ bestseller, One Day is the tale of Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), two students that spend the night together after their college graduation and become friends. Each year, on the same date for the next twenty years, we revisit Dexter and Emma to see where they are in their respective lives. Sometimes they are together on that day and sometimes they are not.
Cue lots of heartache, broken relationships, life lessons and longing looks. Essentially, One Day is your standard Hollywood romance for the thirty-something generation. The soundtrack of the film is the soundtrack of my youth, with everything from Primal Scream, Tears for Fears and Tricky making a welcome appearance.
Anne Hathaway’s accent is somewhere between Jane Horrocks and the resident of an obscure Irish village, but she’s pretty, solid and once again stakes her claim to being one of the most endearing and watchable actresses around. Jim Sturgess has never really impressed for me, but he does show glimpses that he is capable of more, though many will find his character to be a little too odious to care about. Give the man a chance and I’m sure he will win you round.
The pacing of One Day is sadly not what it could be. Some years get more screentime than others, and those that dealt with Dexter’s fame and substance issues could have been fleshed out. As for the couple’s chemistry, I found the relationship to be totally believable, but I can appreciate that there are those who won’t buy it.
I recognised my own experiences and romantic history on screen and I have no doubt that is why I became so emotionally invested; but for me, that is another sign of greatness. Lone Scherfig is doing little more than using the characters as a mirror to the audience. If you’ve ever been in love, then your mind will drift to that person which creates a powerful cocktail of real and on-screen sentiment.
All great love stories have that power. The likes of Ghost (1990) and The Notebook (2004) will never be at the top of any ‘greatest films of all time’ list, but they will be watched and re-watched for decades to come because people like to be reminded that romance isn’t yet dead.
One Day will be playing in living rooms to the sound of sniffles and crumpled chocolate wrappers for many years to come and that, for me, is worth applauding.