I read the book One Day by David Nicholls last year and loved it. It had all the elements of a great story; developed characters that were flawed but loveable, plot lines that were relatable whether you had been through it or not, and a story that was tragic but not in a cheesy way (hello Nicholas Sparks). I guess other people loved it too because Hollywood decided to make a movie out of it—One Day starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.
Hathaway and Sturgess play college friends Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew. The story unfolds over a period of 20 years, always on July 15th. Emma and Dexter couldn’t be more different; she is a save-the-world writer type and he is a charming but damaged playboy. An unlikely friendship develops, and probably the type that really only works in the movies (in real life, when are these people ever friends? Gotta’ love suspension of belief).
It seems like an age-old story, and it is, and isn’t, at the same time. Yes, it’s a boy meets girl, girl falls for boy, boy wises up and realizes he loves girl story at its core. But Nicholls is a great writer, something that is difficult to capture in an hour and thirty minutes on screen. In the book, there are times where you love and hate each character. They can come across as annoying, self centered, holier than thou, etc… The story takes time to evolve, and definitely takes its time on the will-they or won’t-they question. When I heard they were doing a movie version, I was curious how they would adapt the story for film. The result was rushed and manufactured. The movie wasn’t terrible. If you didn’t read the book first, the movie might even be good. For me, the movie was just…medium, at best.
A major issue was the comedic tone of the movie. The book was funny in parts, but it certainly was not a borderline comedy. The book had a wonderful way of expressing the raw emotions of the two leads and having the reader empathize. You’re rooting for the characters, and wishing they didn’t waste so much time finding their way to each other. When the book is over, you’re left thinking, which is what a great novel does.
I’m not sure the movie had a fighting chance here. There are some stories that don’t translate nearly as well on screen, and One Day is no exception. If you’re going to watch the movie, I’d suggest reading the book first to truly get the big picture.