A Lifetime in “One Day”

Photo Courtesy of Focus Features

A love story that withstands the stress of time and the affliction of pressures over the course of two decades, “One Day” draws the audience in and tells a story of unrequited love.

Beginning in 1988 with a graduation at Edinburgh University, the movie quickly introduces the dynamic relationship between the smart yet reserved Emma (Anne Hathaway) and the fun-loving and unhindered Dexter (Jim Sturgess). Although they had known each another throughout the course of their university lives, they never had the pleasure of being with one-another until the morning after graduation, when they nearly enter a drunken mess of a love affair. The day is July 15, which Dexter explains to be St. Swithin’s Day, and “One Day” suddenly finds its focal point in this date.

The movie shows the change that occurs between two clearly different characters as they struggle in their newly found friendship, as well as showing how opposites attract, for Emma and Dexter constantly blur the lines between friends and lovers. Although not always together and not even always liking each other, the movie documents July 15 throughout the years from 1988 to 2008, portraying the growth and strain that Dexter and Emma’s relationship experiences.

Emma, initially a strong female character with ambitions of someday becoming a famous writer, falls early on into a rut where she loses her fire for both her career and relationships, while Dexter experiences the first years with a care-free nature that he enjoys whilst he travels the world. Focusing on their character traits, it is clear that there is a dichotomy between Emma and Dexter, each with their own distinct flaws. Like Dexter’s tattoo that he gets in India during his world travels, the characters represent opposite halves of a whole like the yin-yang symbol, each having what the other lacks.

As the movie progresses, the duo faces trials and tribulations, ultimately leading to a complete 180 degree flip in the directions of Emma and Dexter’s lives, although no matter what comes between them, they always seem to find someway to commemorate St. Swithin’s Day, which they both have come to need in one way or another.

With most movies nowadays, particularly romantic dramas, most audiences expect to fall in love with the characters. However, “One Day” redefines these expectations in that it inveigles the audience to feel hatred towards Emma and Dexter at several points in the story. Liking the characters isn’t a requirement for a great film. As we left the theater, my best friend said to me, “You don’t fall in love with the characters!” But throughout the course of the film, I learned that this wasn’t the point.

The idea behind the story, thanks to the spectacular performances by Hathaway and Sturgess, is that the audience becomes emotionally invested enough in the characters so that they actively feel the characters’ wide range of emotions as the movie crosses the confines of time. Love for a protagonist, or pure hatred of a villain, is a simple cinematic technique that can be replicated by most directors and writers.  However, the amount of talents behind this film proves to be among the best in the industry, as they are able to coax the audience into evoking genuine emotions and reactions to the characters as if they are living the story. This evocation of emotions and realistic portrayals of time-appropriate situations transcend the current 3D trend by bringing the audience into the film rather than bringing the film out to the audience.

Simply speaking, the brilliant casting of starlet Anne Hathaway (whom audiences have time and time again fallen in love with through her portrayals of the underdog) and Sturgess, the cinematography that utilizes lighting and beautiful set-work to show the movement of time and the feeling of the genuine situations from dreary to romantic, as well as the music (with new tracks from English singer-songwriter Elvis Costello) and storytelling establishes “One Day” as a love story to be enjoyed for decades to come.

That being said, as with all films, there are a few ends that fall short of the tapestry that is this film. Anne Hathaway’s fake British accent is a challenge to overlook, but her portrayal of the witty Emma makes up for the shortcomings of her unconvincing accent. In addition, the opening scene carries a clear sense of foreshadowing that, though powerful in creating an anticipatory sense, creates an almost uneasy feeling as the story unfolds.

With performances that will clearly be winning awards in the next Oscar season and a story that wrenches at the heartstrings, “One Day” gives audiences everything that they are looking for in a love story and more. It not only changes the general opinion of a cinematic love story, but also redefines what audiences should expect from films to come. This is definitely one of this Fall’s must-see movies!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5