Emma Morely Anne Hathaway
Dexter Mayhew Jim Sturgess
Ian Rafe Spall
Alison Mayhew Patricia Clarkson
Steven Mayhew Ken Stott
Sylvie Romola Garai
Callum Tom Mison
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse
Based on the book by David Nicholls, “One Day” captures the life of Emma and Dexter throughout the years on 'one day' – July 15. Dexter Mayhew, a privileged and spoiled boy meets Emma Morley, who is neither, on July 15, 1988 after college graduation. When the celebrating is over, Dexter walks Emma home in the early dawn hours. It seems they're headed for a one night stand. For some unexplained reason, Dexter changes his mind while Emma is changing into her graduation gown and little else. They decide to be 'friends'.
Decades of friendship are based on these early morning moments. The time to convince us the experience was somehow significant came and went, unrealized.
Emma and Dexter's lives were all too believable, even if the romantic connection was a little weak. Emma's dream of being a writer starts out a little slow. In 1990, she moves to London and finds herself in a terrible job at a Mexican restaurant, where she meets Ian. Ian is a would-be stand up comic. The problem is – Ian isn't very funny.
Dexter is teaching in Paris. While encouraging Emma on the phone to keep writing, she encourages him to not sleep with his students. Too late! Dexter's parents, Alison and Steven are visiting him. His mother is smart and adoring. They seem very close, and equally amused at his father's difficult nature.
Time jump - Dexter takes Emma on a vacation to France in 1992, with established rules to prevent them crossing the line into a physical relationship. During the trip, Emma admits she crushed on Dex in school, and though he says he felt the same, he also admits he liked every woman. She's hurt by this but quickly recovers. He's oblivious.
Another jump - Dexter takes an embarrassing job in television. He's sleeping with his co-host, who is clueless and ridiculous beyond imagination. He's also overindulging in drugs and alcohol. Emma begins a teaching job. Her relationship with Ian takes a romantic turn.
I thought there would be a turnaround when Dexter visits his mother, who is battling cancer. He shows up looking pretty rough – either under the influence or shaky from withdrawal. Alison sits by her son's bed, telling him she believes he'll be something wonderful one day, but he isn't there yet. She's sad to believe that he just isn't all that “nice” anymore. True to life, sometimes the moments you hope will change someone under the influence of addiction slip by without their notice. His dad promises he'll shut the door in his face if Dexter shows up to see his mother again in that condition.
Another jump - Emma and Dexter meet for dinner. She needs his advice about the souring of her relationship with Ian. Dexter's distracted. He does a little coke in the bathroom and insults Emma's teaching career. 'Those that can, do. Those that can't – teach.' Whatever she liked about him is gone and she walks away from the friendship, for a time.
They reconnect at a friend's wedding. Dexter tells Emma he's marrying Sylvie – a woman without a sense of humor. He's going to be a dad. He claims Sylvie saved him and he worships her. He's lost his job in television. Emma tells him he'll be a great dad. Dexter runs into Callum, a friend from college, who offers Dexter a job. Dex takes his business card, but doesn't seem happy about the offer.
While giving us so many details about careers and relationships with others, the movie glosses over the moment when Dexter and Emma finally sleep together. It merely gets mentioned in a passing conversation.
The important parts of their relationship must have been left in the book, because they weren't on the screen. Spoiler alert** The last minutes of this film were the best. The audience had been lulled into that place where the loose ends are tied up and everything is happily ever after. That wasn't to be. Gasps were heard all around as Emma, on her bicycle, was shockingly hit by a garbage truck on July 15, 2006.
July 15, 2007, Dexter is falling apart and picks a fight he couldn't hope to win. Afterward, sitting beside his dad in the dark, he hears and possibly understands his dad for the first time. Steven shares with his son the secret to going on after losing the love of his life.
It's after Dexter picks up the pieces that we get to see the basis for Dexter and Emma's relationship. After the failed one night stand, years ago, they had a wonderful few hours together. Neither wanted it to end. Sadly, instead of setting the stage for the rest of the film, it seemed more of a last minute sell. “Here, does this make the relationship more believable?” Yes, yes it does – what a mistake to not give it to your audience up front.
I viewed this film at my own expense and was not compensated for my review.