This review contains mild spoilers
Speaking romance, we initially doubted Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, Cloud Atlas) as a compatible match for the romantic drama’s darling, Anne Hathaway (Devil Wears Prada, Love & Other Drugs). Or should it be vice versa? Anyway, the novel premise concerns a lifetime friendship turned eternal love between Hathaway’s Em(ma) and Sturgess’s Dex(ter), which requires the two to create chemistry as much as their characters need to survive the ride written by David Nicholls.
Unlike a minimalist approach and single-day shot in Before Trilogy (1995 – 2013), Dex and Em must go through an annual reunion from time to time which reflects another progress; either success or failure, in each life. The repeating One Day portrays how their relationship develop as well as one think of and feel for each other. Dex is finally a famous presenter on telly, however drifted away into a soulless life, while Em is stucked being a waitress for years, still clinging hope on her gift on writing. Envy, support, and sympathy mostly work on this stage until the career dilemma leads both to an unfortunate realization that they’ve been going to separate ways. Those past good years have just gone and as a friend Em no longer likes Dex anymore.
Nevertheless, the distance has never really parted the two. They’re always close at heart, making every aspect within their relationship remains so bias despite the opinion that man and woman can’t be never be friends. More distance comes when Dex decides to marry Sylvia (Romola Garai) who’s told to save him from a total self-destruction. Em is obviously jealous but can’t help congratulating Dex for another chapter of life, which is finally we learn as the very base of their relationship.
The distance is only to make both eager to see each other and here’s a wake-up call of the premise. One Day is merely a time instrument to bring up both chances without knowing which year of 15th July will be their moment of truth. It’s started on 14th July 1988, on a graduation day when they actually first have a substantial conversation despite the two have been aware of each other’s presence. What happens the next day is Dex and Em promise to always be best friends.
Surprisingly, since the beginning, Sturgess could live up to that flamboyant and childish temper as well as fragile and sweet heart of his character, resulting in Em keep longing for a hope that one day she and Dex might cross path more than just they’re now. Comparing to Hathaway, Sturgess is more versatile, playing Dex with extremely different moods and tones. It’s Dex who gives hope to Em, infecting her an enthusiasm that life should be pursued with a goal. Em simply gives her love and support in return, making Hathaway look rather passive in this area although her Em gets a smarter brain and sharper tongue to balance Dex.
Regardless of the solo performance, Sturgess and Hathaway play a great duet. We can sense a very close and compassionate relationship between the pair. Man and woman can’t be just only friends is indeed true although their romance is seemingly one-sided on the first half. We also find their relationship is very moving, a recommended type to be told over generations. It’s an old-fashioned type which also means endearing, especially in modern days which relationship is spoiled by technology.
On screen, both successfully work out their characters to be relatable to reality instead of being trapped in a cliche that after all the years they should get together romantically in the end, despite the fact they indeed are. They’ve gone through a lot together; humiliation, despair, and hope, gradually building a stronger foundation beyond love itself. What they need is only a chance at the point they don’t have anyone else to run to but each other.
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Anne Hathaway, Patricia Clarkson, Romola Garai, Jodie Whittaker, Rafe Spall
Duration: 107 mins