There’s been so much hype ahead of this film’s release, it becomes almost impossible to sit in the cinema seat for the air-cushion of expectation:
Will the actors playing the leads manage to convey the charm of the novel One Day, a book that has become rite-of-passage reading for this touchy-feely generation?
Will the filmmakers succeed in ageing the characters convincingly, year by year, through two decades of hard living?
And will Anne Hathaway carry off a convincing Yorkshire accent?
The answers are yes, bizarrely convincingly and a big no, respectively.
For the few people sleeping in Andean caves who haven’t read the book, author David Nicholl’s basic conceit is memorable indeed – one day each year in the lives of an intertwined pair, Dexter and Emma, caught in snapshot on the page and now the screen. Director Lone Scherfig (An Education) has pulled off the almighty challenge of turning this highly-tuned concept into a seamless production, with the couple subtly changing both in looks and attitude while their original appeal remains intact.
Some chapters inevitably get a lot more attention than others - including all 23 would have been ambitious. Who can blame Scherfig for concentrating on Dex and Em’s drive through the French countryside, a picturesque Mediterranean moonlit swim, a later Paris sojourn? It’s all very sunlit, particularly against the tedium of Emma’s grey little life whenever Dexter’s not in it. Poor, poor cuckold of a boyfriend, played by a suitably irritating but sympathetic Rafe Spall.
Jim Sturgess is first-class as Dexter. His own mother tells him in one of many scenes that can’t fail to feel authentically familiar to cinema-goers, “I know you’re going to be, but you’re not very nice at the moment.”
Dexter’s confidence is travelling in a different car on the motorway from the one carrying his emotional maturity. Only as one starts to fail him does the other catch up, and it is a very sweet transition that comes at a price.
Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway has weathered various critical concerns that she is either too pretty, or not British enough, to play spirited, northern Emma. On the visual demands, she hits it out of the park, believably transforming herself from the archetypal gauche graduate – all small glasses, big teeth, small boobs, big underwear – to a Parisienne gamine knockout by the latter half. And her comic timing is excellent.
But, and it’s a biggie, the accent is as wobbly as everyone has feared, and yet again raises the question why a British actress could not just have played the role. I understand the need to appeal to a transatlantic box office and Hathaway is by no means an uninspired choice visually, but shoe-horning an A-list American into an English role has inevitable repercussions.
I was so distracted, wondering what version of the mother tongue she was going to attempt next – veering from wartime-BBC to proper ‘Eeee by gum’ clangers – I actually forgot to cry, which was a shame, as it’s a corker of a tale, and Edinburgh and London both look lovely.