By Brian Lafferty
August 19, 2011 (San Diego) – One Day is the best example in recent memory of what happens when bad endings happen to good films. This movie is (or was, before the ending) by no means great, nor is it innocuous, but a good one. Let me put it this way: Many of the worst films I’ve seen have had endings that were less contrived, idiotic, and less stupid than the one in this movie.
The title day is July 15. In 1988, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) are two college graduates who become quick friends. The film follows their friendship over the next twenty-three July 15s. Some years they’re together, some they’re not. Some years they’re very friendly, others they fight. There are high roads and low roads, ups and downs, and marriages and divorces.
As we get older, we are rarely continuously aware of the passage of time. At times, life can be a blur while we live it. It isn’t until we see our friends getting married or our siblings having kids that we realize this passage of time.
It’s that living-in-the-present attitude that director Lone Scherfig adopts. She doesn’t approach it from a nostalgic angle, not at first, anyway. At the beginning I often felt like I was seeing the present, instead of a movie set in the late 1980s. It isn’t until the film gets to the mid-1990s, when the characters go through rough times, that nostalgia for the idealistic and romantic young adulthood of the late 1980s kicks in.
Hathaway speaks in an English accent. I find this a curious coincidence, since it’s been twenty years since Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was released in theaters. In that film, much was made over Kevin Costner trying an English accent and then quickly abandoning it within the first ten minutes.
Hathaway is a good actress, but her English accent leaves too much to be desired. It often sounds overdone and fake. As the movie progresses, she sounds a little more comfortable with it, but it’s hard to listen to. At least she decided to keep it.
Now the ending. Wow. I’m all for unpredictable endings. This one is completely unbelievable. This is the type of ending that leaves you with your mouth agape, simply stupefied, then resisting the urge to set fire to the screen. It negates everything that worked up to that point. As if that weren’t bad enough, once the shock wears off, the film devolves into cloying oversentimentality. I really want to reveal the ending out of spite, but I won’t. Time will tell if I’ll regret it.
And don’t tell me that the ending was in the book the movie was based on. It’s a lousy storytelling device in any medium.
One Day is now playing in local theaters.
A Focus Features release. Director: Lone Scherfig. Screenplay: David Nicholls, from his book. Original music: Rachel Portman. Cinematography: Benoit Delhomme. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott, Romola Garai, and Rafe Spall. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13.