One Day

Twenty-Three Short Films of Would-Be Lovers


19 August 2011| No Comments on One Day     by Sean Chavel


I am unapologetically an opponent of love stories where it takes 15 years for two people to fall in love with each other. One Day is such a story with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as longtime friends with unexpressed feelings that bounce around from love, hate, and just like during their long, windy course. The two of them, Dexter and Emily, have to find themselves first before they are ready for each other. Starting with July 15, 1988 the film revisits them every year on that date with convenient check-ins of their evolving lives – only later on are we as an audience called upon to fill in the gaps of what other life changes transpired that year. This is based on an international bestseller by David Nicholls and so I suppose if you are a sucker for such stories you will be just smitten by it. In all fairness I found some isolated moments affecting.

Both Hathaway (“Love and Other Drugs”) and Sturgess (“Across the Universe”) have to portray characters who are appealing some years and unappealing during others. They are both assisted by changes in bad hair to good hair on top of the internal changes. On the first year of meeting, they have just graduated from their university. They get in bed with each other but the chemistry is unsexy maybe because they are too tipsy from drinking or because Emily is girl unaccustomed to hasty flings. They decide to be friends.

Each year after, they maintain a flirting friendship but manage to say the wrong thing to each other. As an example, they find themselves on a nude beach on the third year and spontaneously go skinny dipping. She is near shivering and could use a warm body, and he says something of amorous enticement but follows up with self-sabotaging bachelor talk. His clothes are stolen by some teenage pranksters and he jumps out to run after them. That’s that year’s episode. Amusing but a case of unfinished business.

From there, we go through an observant series of drastic personality changes. Emily, over the years, grows from dorky and insecure, fumbling and nervous with the opposite sex, but soon falls into an inadequate relationship with an untalented comedian (Rafe Spall), transforms into a lady whom is confident and independent, becomes pretty, rises from teacher to professional writer, and by end slips into the role as savior.

Dexter grows from charming and flattering, sticking it jauntily to girls left and right, becomes an annoying late night talk show host, becomes a cocaine-using party-boy, deteriorates into a burnout, attempts redemption with a humorless but educated blonde (Romola Garai), and then finally adrift to the point he needs surrogate mother and lover rescue.

I can’t help but think that there was 364 chances times 23 (coming out to 8,372) to rewrite their history, and much earlier. For most smart and educated people, year five should be around the time when a person of the male or female sex should be able to outgrow a futile love. Emily blossoms into a maturity quicker than the superficially hampered Dexter. The film’s decisive turning point hinges upon lengthy emphasis of the riding of one bicycle, and a jaded moviegoer should be able to foresee what will happen at that bike’s final destination.

“One Day” is an unapologetic tearjerker, and I apologize that I just don’t go for blatant plot mechanics. Nor do I go for movies that have characters that can’t make up their minds after, oh, about five years.

108 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould” (1994); “Just Friends” (2005); “Definitely, Maybe” (2008); “500 Days of Summer” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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