I physically cringed when I originally heard that one of my favourite books, One Day, was to be made into a film. I own three different versions of the book and have read the novel in full three times. There are also days when I open the book at random and read a few pages. There are also days when I just read “that bit”.
I watched the trailer, smiled at the right parts and grew darker when needed. I walked away from it feeling slightly better about the upcoming adaptation. So, with a small amount of trepidation, the wife and I finally went to see it last night (after a couple of weeks of cancellations) and my opinion of the final product is mixed.
I don’t consider myself an expert on One Day, but I know my stuff. This was perhaps detriment to my viewing, although I would ask if anyone who has seen the film but not read the book, if they felt the same way, because the film felt disjointed. This is mainly due to the setup of the book, which would always be hard to film.
A book the jumps forward a year at a time between chapters is going to be tough to translate. Lone Scherfig did a remarkable job at aging the characters, Emma and Dexter, in both looks and personality, but there were a few moments where there seemed to be a gap in the proceedings. For example, we see Dexter with his Mother in Paris early in the film, the next time we see her she is dying of cancer. This moment in the book is full of emotion and drama because the book features her much more, strengthening the bond between Mother and Son. The film loses that impact as it never has enough time to build the emotion.
This also happened during Dexter’s spiral into oblivion and misery during his TV presenting years. I always said that One Day is more about Dexter than Emma, because of his journey and this still rings true in the film, but once again loses its impact.
It’s a common phrasing, but here I really would recommend reading the book before seeing the film, mainly, because the film is actually rather good, but it would be elevated by reading Nicholls’ original work.
Now, down to the casting. I was very happy to see Jim Sturgess take up the role of Dexter, he plays him with the same pompous arrogance that comes over in the book, but he also shows the same amount of heart that makes Dex such a well loved character (though Jim didn’t quite deliver the scented candle line that well). Anne Hathaway on the other hand is slightly awkward playing Emma. At times it works very well, mainly when Emma is more adult, centred and confident. However, in the opening scenes it just doesn’t work. In my opinion it would have been safer casting an unknown or an upcoming actress to play her. Hathaway, to me at least, is too much the beautiful Hollywood star to pull off the downtrodden northerner. As a side note, her accent is pretty awful, moving from Mary Poppins to breeding Whippets over one line of dialogue.
Certain moments of the book translate very well to the screen, particularly the standout emotional moments. There are several moments in the book, including one very standout and pivotal part that I wasn’t sure would work and they do, right down to being tear inducing. Anyone who has read the book knows the moments I refer to and thankfully Scherfig does them justice.
As a fan of the book, I wasn’t disappointed (not like after the travesty of The Time Travellers Wife) but I could have been happier. Honestly though, you could call me a fanboy of the book, in which case I would never be truly happy. I’ll certainly pick it up on DVD when it’s released, in part to watch it again as it’s genuinely good but also to see if any deleted scenes satisfy the bookish part of me.
Now I just have to wait a few weeks to see how the film adaptation of The Help works out!