Imagine meeting and sharing a bed with someone on the night of your college graduation, then leaving the next day to start the rest of your life. You keep in touch, become friends — then best friends, and remain that way for the next 20 years. Now place London and Paris as the backdrop, and let the chips fall where they may. One Day has all the trappings of a typical romance, but adds an intriguing presentation of those trappings and a gasp-worthy twist to the tale.
Director Lone Scherfig adapts David Nicholls' 2009 novel into 108 minutes of mismatched friends and distraught love, following Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) every July 15 as their friendship progresses, digresses, and then progresses again over the course of 20 years.
They spend the night together after their college graduation in 1988, sparking a friendly relationship rather than a romantic one. Their first July 15 together isn't revealed until the end, leaving the rest of the movie to flash through each year, same date, together or not. They lead separate lives throughout: Emma as a prude believing she can make a difference in the world, and Dexter as a reckless risk-taker who treats that world like his playground.
An aspiring writer, Emma kicks off her career as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant in London. Dexter travels a bit after college and returns home to become a wealthy and famous host of a crappy TV show. As they get older, Dexter becomes an alcoholic, losing his job and his best friend while Emma begins teaching and eventually writes a novel.
They fall in love — Emma with an unfunny stand-up comedian and Dexter with, well, a gaggle of ditzy girls. And as these things go, they can never seem to find the right time to be together. Just when Emma finally ditches her boyfriend, Dexter hands her his shotgun-wedding invitation; when he gets divorced, Emma has moved to Paris and has a sexy new French boyfriend.
In the middle of all this unfortunate timing, two separate and quite opposite people grow as individuals and as a couple through heartbreak and drunken nights, hopes and sacrifices, fights and laughter. And just when you think One Day is heading toward a nauseatingly cheesy ending, a startling turn of events takes hold of the remaining 20 minutes or so and changes the entire movie, but not necessarily in a good way.
Still, Hathaway and Sturgess do some terrific things with the mediocre plot and are totally believable as a couple. (Hathaway's British accent, however, is less believable.) You may feel something as the credits roll at the end of the movie, but those feelings won't stay with you for long.