Sturgess and Hathaway each affect English accents for their roles—his is real, her’s clearly isn’t—of people who meet on July 15, 1988 and play romantic cat and mouse for almost twenty years. In the beginning Hathaway is an earnest poet who thinks she can change the world. How earnest is she? She plays Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” as seduction music. That’s pretty earnest. He’s a rich kid with a yin yang symbol, representing the perfect union of opposites, tattooed on his ankle and, as it turns out on his heart. This pair of opposites spend most of their lives trying not to fall in love until one day, July 15th, no less, they take the leap.
“One Day” is many things. It’s a style parade of hair and clothes from the past twenty years and it’s an interesting take on how to tell a story but it’s also a little disconnected. I think the year-by-year format—we drop in on Jim and Anne every July 15 for twenty years—is the culprit. It begins to feel gimmicky by the early nineties and by the millennium almost feels as though it is playing out in real time.
Luckily the story is rescued by the chemistry between the leads. Sturgess brings an easy charm to the character, and his transformation from happy-go-lucky student to lounge lizard TV presenter is effective. Hathaway’s charm lies in the intelligence she brings to her characters. Here she plays a smarty-pants young woman set adrift in life, someone who is slowly finding thye self confidence to be who she really wants to be. In Hathaway’s hands you never doubt that she’ll get there.
The decades long dance they do as they pretend not to be in love shows the chemistry between the two. The film has some serious structural flaws but the spark between the two of them forgive many of the film’s sins.
We’ve seen the ‘can men and women be friends’ thing a hundred times before but “One Day’s” “whatever happens tomorrow… we’ve had today” theme is effective and may even wring a tear or two from the most hard hearted of viewers.