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Old 17th Sep 2011, 15:05   #1
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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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Old 16th Jul 2014, 12:32   #2
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It was St Swithin/Swithun's Day yesterday, and because of, or despite that, Film4 premiered One Day and I decided to try it out. I'll admit this was mostly due to Anne Hathaway, for whom I find myself entertaining a recent admiration, but I also recall the conversation I had with ono in... Cardiff, maybe(?)... about the whole David Nicholls phenomenon. It had passed me by, and I was baffled as to the whole "they're making it into a film" discussion that was beginning to generate in the press and online. What? What are they making into a film? I didn't know it, but felt I ought to, and ono was in dismissive one-star-if-that mood, and it made me wonder if the blackouts were back and would there be more months of therapy and blood blood Mother blood and dark dripping corridors in abandoned Victorian hospi-... sorry, anyway, I'd never heard of it. And there it was, last night, on the telly, so I pitched in.

The conceit of course is that we jump in on Emma (Hathaway) and Dex (Jim Sturgess) on every 15th July (St Swithin's Day, of course), from their graduation day in Edinburgh as ambitious, energetic ingnues (well, she is, he's an oversexed, floppy-haired ne'er-do-well) right up to twenty years later when all manner of experiences and real-world events have shaped, taken apart or reconstructed them.

Hmm. And, well. This does and doesn't really work. It's true, of course, that even with our closest friends we only ever see them in snapshot and freeze frame, and all the interesting stuff goes on unknown and is developed or resolved off camera (I'm surprised they didn't go to more weddings, frankly, considering the July framework), but goodness it's rather disjointed and there is a lack of connection that slows things down before woah! we're off again and it's a year later. Often, 50% of the time, quite frankly, or whenever the film concentrates on sumg prick Dex, you're left wanting the damn thing to scoot forward and leave the insufferable turdlet in the past. It's frustrating.

Ultimately it comes down to Emma and Dex and whether or not you believe their relationship, or want them to do something about it. There is an awful lot of not doing anything about it. Emma spends way too long coyly dismissing any idea that she is in any way attractive, despite looking a delight throughout, so much so that most people might very reasonably end up shouting, "oh, what ever" at her and walking off before quietly unfriending her passive-aggressive Boden-catalogue-loving elfin ass on Facebook and forgetting about her. Dex, well, Dex just wants disposing of and feeding to the pigs, because he is a terrible human being, and Emma must surely have a deep-seated character flaw the length and depth of the Marianas Trench to be so screwed up about him for so long.

The ending is predictable, as some redemption for Dex is long overdue (it's long overdue at about twenty minutes, in all honesty), and it needs to be a biggie to undo all that hard work being a smug oversexed prick he's been putting in. Indeed, so predictable is it I nearly turned off in disgust with a good ten minutes to go. But, had I done that I would have missed the most affecting moment when Dex takes his daughter up to Arthur's Seat, where he and Emma had walked on their first day, and they have a conversation which for one brief moment slips the bonds of the artificial framework and tugs at the heartstrings.

I'm not sure it's worth it, for all that, but it was a bit of a doozy, and I guess you couldn't have done the whole trek there otherwise. Gah! How very infuriating. In the end, like Billy Bragg in St Swithin's Day, I just wanted to ask, what was it all for?

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Old 24th Jul 2014, 14:08   #3
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I see that David Nicholls has made the Booker longlist.
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Old 3rd Aug 2014, 12:58   #4
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