Same time next year
If opposites attract, then One Day’s lead characters, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) are perfect for each other. Apparently they aren’t too familiar with the motto, otherwise it’d be a pretty short film. Instead, the movie based on David Nicholls’ novel of the same name spans a 20-year timeframe that outlines the tumultuous relationship of these flirty friends who can’t quite seem to get together.
We first check in with Em and Dex at college graduation, then repeat their “one day” each year, on the anniversary of that encounter: a charming but gimmicky plot structure.
Generally, these annual vignettes serve as refreshing “slice of life” moments for this angst-ridden couple. We watch cynical-yet-sweet Emma pursue her writing dreams, as playboy Dexter struggles with a glamorously destructive lifestyle of fame and fortune. As they age, their complicated friendship adapts to the changing dramas of their lives. Love, death, addiction, regrets: It’s all covered, qualifying the film as a heavy love story (bring the tissues). I appreciated that the recaps didn’t always resort to purely dramatic moments, and instead revealed simple but important glimpses of their characters.
Unfortunately, the “once a year” plot structure has some pitfalls. It interrupts the narrative, stifling the growth of the couple’s relationship. I’m guessing the novel had time to flesh out the complexities of the characters more appropriately, and the film tries to translate as best it can.
Fortunately, Hathaway and Sturgess have convincing chemistry as would-be lovers, filling the gaps where the editing can’t. I could feel the frustration of their dilemma: finding the right person at the wrong time. But while its characters struggle to recognize true love when it’s there, One Day remains a sweet lesson about the importance of loving your best friend through thick and thin.