Thread: One Day
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Old 17th Sep 2011, 15:05   #1
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Join Date: 30 Apr 2003
Location: England
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Default One Day

It’s probably fair to say that if you didn’t much enjoy One Day the Book, you won’t appreciate much in One Day the Film: Emma Morley (played by Anne Hathaway) is irritatingly Eng-Lit-geek perfect, blossoming from ugly specs and Laura Ashley prints in the late ‘80’s, to confident Parisian fashions in the early Noughties. Dexter morphs through “rah” to Rick Astley/London scene boy through to older and wiser in-his-forties neutrality. As a transfer from page to screen it kind of works but for Anne Hathaway and the desperately truncated glimpse we get into these friends’ lives. Hathaway maintains a passable neutral-English accent for 80% of the film, for 15% she utters rejoinders in an excessive Alan Bennett-ish West Yorkshire, which is both startling on the ear and illusory, vanishing again into middle-class neutral. Then there are the moments when her American accent surfaces and confuse not only our ears but any attachment we can have been forming to this very impersonal character.

A fault of the book as well as the film is that Em & Dex endlessly meeting on 15th July leaves a huge emotional and structural deficit in the story’s frame: no mention Emma’s family at all; little sense of the friendship that must have built up between Emma and Dex’s family; no sense of other meaningful friendships sustained over those 23 years. Whilst this can assist in skipping over the baggier and more complicated parts of life, it means our insights into these people’s lives is superficial at best. The film omits what might be termed ‘unhelpful’ elements of the book – Emma’s affair with her head-teacher boss; Dex’s gradual moving on to new affection with his work colleague – in favour of focusing solely on their friendship but gives us little grounds or evidence for on what this deep affection is based.

Critics have indicated the lack of connection between the two main actors but I thought Jim Sturgess as Dex did a fair job of revealing the emotional investment he spent all those years semi-concealing. By contrast, Anne Hathaway was distant and uninvolving – you couldn’t believe either her deep love or dependence on this relationship (again, maybe a fault in the book), and in consequence when the film’s tragedy strikes – making the entire cinema jump sideways in shock – it is not actually Emma’s situation we are concerned about. The three 12/13yr olds who viewed this with me were weeping from that point on but more on account of Dex’s situation, and I think the film’s (and book’s) peak of insight and emotion actually comes later on from Rafe Spall’s reflection as Ian, Emma’s ex-boyfriend. He speaks the truth about what has made this friendship and relationship between Emma and Dex special and he honours it movingly, revealing his own kindness and affection . The film treats him warmly and kindly and he pretty much nails the part and humanises it – in the book he is more of a caricature.

Ken Stott, Patricia Clarkson and Romola Garai do fine backing support and the location, incidental music and props people deserve some applause for crystalising the passing of the decades in what felt an accurate but not ostentatious way. Emilia Jones as the young Jasmine, Dex's daughter, was both stunningly pretty and beautifully understated in her acting.

If you were a student in the late ‘80’s, as Mr Col and I were, some of this film will be a brief glimpse into the life and times some people led then, but as with the book, neither Emma or Dex are attractive characters (though the film-Dex evokes more sympathy than irritation at his selfishness and lonely downfall). For a film that is all about the abiding connections of the heart, this film felt peculiarly heart-less and soulless, and its parabola reveals that Dex’s journey is the one we care about – his relationship with his mother, his father, his daughter. As for Em, hers is a trajectory that always seems assured, despite her Tex-Mex restaurant beginnings, and only the randomness of life interrupted halts its flight.

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