One Day hits the big screen…but is the film any good?

26 Aug

Books are always better than their film adaptations. Let’s just get that sentence out of the way before I go any further. Never have I seen a ‘major motion picture’ version of a novel and wondered why I wasted 5 or so hours of my life trawling through 300 pages of text when a 90 minute visual extravaganza did it better. The reason people get so emotionally attached to novels isn’t just because they’re a great story, it’s also because our experiences of the story are filtered through our own imaginations. Thus we read about David Nicholls’ loveable rogue Dexter, and we’ve instantly got a picture of him in our heads. He’s like that guy we sort of got with once. We know exactly what he looks like, how he makes us feel, probably even how he smells (…just me?!). And whilst films can bring books to life in a way that is more creative (and definitely more expensive) than our own imaginations, it’s never quite the same experience. As my cousin said, “I don’t want to see the film. I prefer the version in my head.”

That said, the film adaptation of One Day is really pretty good. For the few who have yet to tear through a bright orange edition of David Nicholls’ humongous bestseller, let me do a whizz through of the plot. A couple of students get together on their graduation day, 15th July 1988 – he’s rich, charming and a bit of a smooth-talking lothario, she’s a smart but insecure northerner with big plans to change the world. They remain friends and we catch up with them on the 15th of July for the next twenty years. It’s a brilliant story because everyone can relate to it: it shows how lives evolve and how people change, via characters who are flawed but realistic. It’s fantastically romantic in that quirky sort of way that Brits do so well. I haven’t known a book to have such a passionate following of adult readers since The Time Traveller’s Wife.

Ah, but what about the film, you ask? Well, it keeps the episodic structure of the book and with the exception of a couple of events it doesn’t stray far from the plot at all. My fellow cinema-goers hadn’t read the book (heathens!) and they felt that the year-jumping structure moved a little too fast at the beginning, and I had to admit I felt the same. Without the book’s narrative giving a little more background to the first four years, the plot and characters felt a little hollow. That said, the treatment of each chapter seemed to improve as the years progress.

But what about the accents, I hear you cry. Doesn’t that American woman ruin everything?! Yes, Anne Hathway’s accent is terrible. It slides from straight up American to slightly southern British to an Emmerdale extra. A columnist in the Evening Standard slated the press for giving Hathway a hard time, adding that the notion of using a lesser-known British star “takes no account of the need to have a truly bankable star to attract investment and entice an international audience.” I understand his argument, but if it was ok to go for a relatively little known actor as Dexter (Jim Sturgess), why couldn’t they have followed suit with Emma? Would it really have been so wrong to cast a Brit actress who could do Emma justice? I think Hathaway is a great actress and her performance is otherwise strong. Her portrayal would be pretty faithful to my idea of Emma if it wasn’t for the constant vocal yo-yoing. The girls next to me in the cinema kept collapsing into giggles every time she attempted a sentence that sounded like it originated from anywhere vaguely north of the M25. The schizophrenic accent shifts detract you from the character, and as a result I didn’t get the closeness to Emma that I felt in the book.

That said, Jim Sturgess was perfect as Dexter. Sexy in a foppish, dandy kind of way, I can kind of understand how French ELLE dubbed him ‘le nouveau Hugh Grant’. But don’t let that put you off – Sturgess can do charming, vile, vacuous, and intense at the drop of a hat. His take on Dexter’s drug-addled TV years and his relationship with his parents was particularly impressive. You will love him and hate him and love him again, I guarantee it. Chemistry-wise, it’s pretty believable, even if a few of the lingering glances in the early years are a little comedic and there’s a slightly cringy sex scene that wouldn’t be missed.

Nicholls has spoke about the difficult of casting actors that could be students and middle-aged, but I think it was done pretty well. No extravagant wrinkles, just a touch of salt and pepper for Dex and a couple of laughter lines (and a way better wardrobe) for Emma. A special mention also has to go to Emma’s boyfriend Ian, played by suitably awkward comedian Rafe Spall. Cringy, endearing and slightly repulsive simultaneously, he nailed it.

Final verdict? Loved it. Just the right balance of gut-wrenching emotion and swoon-inducing romance. Go see it, bitch about the accent, get over it, and cry….

WIN A FLIPBACK COPY OF ONE DAY: Fancy getting your hands on one of these amazing teeny copies of One Day? They’re smaller than an iPhone, perfect for popping in your handbag. Leave a comment and tell me why you should win, and I’ll pick a winner soon! (UK only)

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7 Responses to “One Day hits the big screen…but is the film any good?”

  1. Tori August 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I think Jurassic Park the film was better than the book. And I haven’t read ‘One Day’ yet… I think I’ll watch the film first so I won’t be disappointed. Although then when I do read the book I’ll have Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess stuck in my head rather than creating my own visions of the characters. Hmmm.

    • proseandconsbookclub September 7, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

      Hi Tori, as you were the first to reply (and for the jurassic park reference!) I hereby award you with the prize of the mini copy of One Day! I hope you get to read it before you see the film, but do let us all know what you think of it won’t you! Email me your address when you can (frillseeking@googlemail.com). Congrats, and thanks for commenting!x

  2. Kelly August 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    I haven’t seen the film, but have heard comments that the book was rather dull! I always prefer the book to the movie. I find a few movies skip important character and plot building chapters from the book which can make the film less enjoyable.

    • proseandconsbookclub September 7, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

      Hi Kelly, the book is a good’un, I’d recommend you get your hands on a copy when you get a chance! In the meantime, since you were so kind to comment, I’d love to send you a mini copy of international bestseller What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt! Perhaps you can send us a mini review? Email me your address (frillseeking@googlemail.com). Cheers! x

  3. Leanna (@daisychainbooks) September 6, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day and linking me to your fab review of the movie. I’m glad to hear it works for the most part! While I was reading One Day I pictured Jim Sturgess as Dex the whole way through and he really works! As talented as Anne Hathaway is, I am not sure about her in this role, so I guess I’ll have to go check out her performance for myself soon. Is the accent really that bad?! Eeek!

    Fab blog! 🙂

    p.s – Not in the UK so this isn’t a competition entry. x

    • proseandconsbookclub September 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Ah no probs, I love your blog!! Am glad you agree about Jim Sturgess fitting well as Dex.. Do let me know what you think of the film when you see it, would be interested to hear your thoughts! x

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