One Day Blu-Ray Review: An Uneven, Frustrating Romance

Lone Scherfig's adaptation of David Nicholl's best-selling novel is a mixed up, uninspiring romance without the spark or charm of the genre's classics.

Film

rating:2

As long as their is story-telling, romances will sell, and any author who manages to capture the imaginations of those romantically inclined sorts who populate the fiction best-seller charts with their purchases can usually comfortably live off the sales for some time. Or they would if there was any money left in books... With romantic films, success usually depends on the film-makers' ability to marry an enduring story and intriguing characters with the established conventions of the genre, without simply trying to rehash Sleepless in Seattle, with a modern quirky twist. Far, far too many modern romances have gone to hell in the handcart that is "quirk" after all. In both cases, striking the balance between new and traditional is a prime factor for success - romantics don't want too much innovation, or too much deviation from the saccharine central elements that usually draw criticism from the more cynical commenters. I know this, because I count three "romances" in my all-time top five films. They might not be the highest form of art, but they should be neither cast aside as frivolous nor frivolously made. On the surface it would seem that One Day - directed by An Education's Lone Scherfig - comes from the traditional school. Adapted from the mega best-selling novel by David Nicholls, it follows two star-crossed characters, Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) whose meeting sets them on a course of a twenty year friendship that eventually, inevitably blossoms, despite them only meeting one day a year, and spending the rest of the time ringing each other, and generally ignoring each other's requests for help. This is no bubble romance. Strangely, considering Scherfig's other films, One Day smacks of inelegance. The director has made some decisions that deviate from the original text and lead to a poorer adaptation, especially in terms of how Dex and Emma's relationship develops, which causes a fairly fatal problem for the film, as I'll come to discuss. There is no profundity in the way the characters are presented, and there is very little impact on the audience as a result, despite the excellence of BenoƮt Delhomme's photography. One Day is effectively a modern reimagination of the wonderful When Harry Met Sally - in terms of its chronological set-up - which was never going to endear it to me particularly given my love of the original. At least it isn't Love & Other Drugs though eh? The problem for Dex and Emma's relationship though, and the reason it can get nowhere near the heights of When Harry Met Sally is that Dex and Emma's attraction is extremely difficult to understand. Why anyone would endure what their relationship entails for twenty years on the flimsy foundation of their "spark" is beyond me - and I am usually willing to accept the most ludicrous of narrative conceits in the name of romance. Characters like Emma and Dex - conflicting opposites as they appear - are supposed to be given the luxury of time together to get over their differences and conflicts, but their relationship is too fragmented to really convince of the underlying message that if two people are meant to be together in the end, it doesn't matter how long they spend together. And it certainly doesn't help that the one days they do spend together usually end badly or do some kind of harm - because you find yourself screaming at Emma that Dex isn't worth the effort, but like the abused wife-type she is, your advice falls on deaf ears. Now, in When Harry Met Sally, Harry is the archetypical bad boyfriend - he is egotistical, self-serving and downright emotionally abusive, and the idea that Sally would forgive all and fall into his arms at the end is pretty repugnant when you think about it. He's one of those dicks that the "nice guys" are always moaning get the girl, and yet his resolution, and the romantic conclusion of the film is no less heart-warming, because Billy Crystal makes the character infinitely likeable despite his flaws. He is charming, endearing and appealing in a way that Dex could never hope to be, and even though Harry and Sally are undoubtedly now the other side of a very messy divorce, the enduring image of them is of their love, and not their conflict. Not so with Emma and Dex, because the actors can't convince enough, and there plainly isn't enough spark in the first place to make their relationship authentic. That's not to say Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway are poor. They are in fact the shining redemption of the film - despite Hathaway's wandering English accent - but the script and the way the characters are framed, for the most part, do the performances, and their attempts to take advantage of their obvious chemistry a serious injustice. All-in-all, the film is notable for good acting performances; from the two leads primarily, but also from Ken Stott and Patricia Clarkson, who play Dexter's parents and give him some kind of authentic grounding. It's just a shame we couldn't have seen more - a film split between their relationship with their son, whose life falls apart like Dexters and Dex and Emma's relationship in more conventional terms might have been far superior. But then, it probably wouldn't have been made - unless, perhaps by Mike Leigh. Dear Mike Leigh, please make that film.

Quality

rating:4.5

Despite it being a peculiarly drab film, One Day looks brilliant on blu-ray thanks to a very strong transfer from Universal. The cinematography already made the film look great, so limited work would have had to be done for the transfer in those terms, but thankfully Universal chose not to remove the obvious layer of film grain that gives the film's it's lush aesthetic. That grain compromises the level of detail, but it remains very good, and likewise black levels and textures are impressive. There is limited noise, and no distracting remnants of tinkering, and it all leads to a fine visual transfer. The audio is just as well presented - dialogue is given perfect precedence, ambient noise is well presented and it clarity is generally flawless - there's just not a lot in this indie soundtrack that really allows the transfer to shine. Still very solid nonetheless.

Extras

rating:1.5

Poor, mostly promotional material, which is about as brief as I've ever experienced in my long trek through the world of Special Features. Overall, there is about three minutes of additional material, and very little of actual value (and that is being generous), with five terrible, swift featurettes, five instantly forgettable Deleted scenes, and a middling commentary from the director which is classified more by silence than insight. Feature Commentary with Director Lone Scherfig The Look of One Day (HD, 5 minutes): "Making a 20 Year Love Story," "Creating Emma with Anne" and "Dexter's Transformation." Em and Dex, Through the Years (HD, 4 minutes) Anne Hathaway: Bringing Emma to Life (HD, 2 minutes) Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 minutes): Five ho-hum cuts, none of which leave a mark. My Scenes Bookmarking BD-Live Functionality One Day is available to buy on blu-ray and DVD now.
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