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What a difference a day makes

Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in the on-off relationship Rom Com One Day, based on David Nicholls popular novel

THOSE who have caught some of my previous occasional reviews will be aware of my longstanding and increasingly cantankerous dislike of the romantic-comedy genre. Have You Heard About The Morgans?, The Proposal, Mamma Mia! – these are the films that stalk my nightmares, representing countless lost hours I can never get back. So it is with no small measure of surprise (and pleasure) to find a film that so easily rises above the mediocrity that characterises many of its competitors, a sweetly melancholic and good-natured story that is able to move and charm its audience in equal measure.

The premise of the film is beguilingly simple, following the changing relationship between Emma and Dexter (Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess) in a series of day-long narrative snapshots. Always the same day of the year (July 15), sometimes together, sometimes apart, but with the characters' lives always inextricably bound up with each other.

In each of these little episodes, director Lone Scherfig adds to the depth and complexity of these characters' lifelong relationship. Indeed, one of the film's chief joys is that it refuses to simplify its portrayal, showing Emma and Dexter's many mistakes, flaws, and failings as they meander, occasionally blunder, through the years.

In contrast to saccharin Hollywood fairytales where the maxim ‘the course of love never ran smooth' rarely manifests itself as more than token adversity, One Day deals with uncomfortable, and decidedly unsentimental hardships. Alcoholism and substance abuse form a significant part of the story, and the film is unafraid to draw out links between self-destructive behaviour and infidelity, loneliness, and the pressures of working life in London.

None of this would be possible without the efforts of the two leads, Sturgess and Hathaway, who bring sincerity and subtlety to their respective roles. Anne Hathaway, of whom I have had significant reservations in the past, is charming and funny, but the best turn belongs to Sturgess and his depiction of an affable but rather dissolute yuppie, slowly going off the rails. The supporting cast also deserve a mention, with particular praise due to Ken Stott and Patricia Clarkson as Dexter's wholesome (and impeccably preserved) Mum and Dad.

There are flaws of course (it's slightly too long, and Hathaway's Yorkshire accent is a little unusual), but in a genre littered with underwhelming work, One Day distinguishes itself as a funny and affecting little drama. In some ways, the greatest testament to its success comes at the film's close. Without revealing the finer points of the plot (to those unfamiliar with David Nicholl's omnipresent novel), a shocking event befalls one of the two main characters. In a less adroitly handled piece, such a development might seem cheap, a disposable plot twist designed to cynically tug at the heart-strings.

As it stands, One Day is so solidly made, its characters and and relationships so carefully constructed, that the ending feels like a high point rather than a nadir, a coda entirely in keeping with what came before, and which left more than one person at my screening stifling back a sob. In short, One Day is a lovely, clever little film that restores my faith in the ‘Rom-Com' stable. Recommended.

One Day (Lone Scherfig)

Running time: 2h 38min Rating: ***

N2 film reviews supported by Newbury Vue

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