The romance genre is full of so many cliches these days that it takes a lot for one to actually rise up and be worthy of recommendation. They usually feature two opposites who end up together and when a hidden truth is revealed, their relationship is tossed on the rocks and something huge must happen to get them back together again. They're typically superficial, no real trace of "love" being found between them. If these people were you're friends, you'd say they were merely hooking up - not beginning a life-long relationship together. Most are fluffy, leave-your-cares-at-home, make-the-ladies-feel-good movies that don't contain an ounce of truth or honesty. 'One Day' stays away from those typical cliches, but slips into a few other familiar scenarios that leave it lacking - but it's still quite a bit better than the generic chick flicks we've become accustomed to.
Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess play Emma and Dexter (or Em and Dex), two friends deeply in love with one another who have never gotten together. 'One Day' takes us through 20 years of their relationship, beginning with the night they meet following their college graduation on July 15, 1988. On July 15 of each year, no matter how much distance lies between them, they get together to reconnect and catch up. At the end of that day, they (usually) say their goodbyes until the next July 15 rolls around.
Em and Dex couldn't be any more different. She is a poor, frumpy, working class woman and he is a womanizing, cocky, born-into-wealth charmer. While Emma tries to stay afloat by working as a waitress, Dex lives like a playboy gliding through his job as a television show host in London. But none of that matters on July 15. 'One Day' pops around from one July 15 to the next, re-establishing the characters and their love-sick relationship each time. While it sounds like this premise may get repetitious, it doesn't. Each year is different, sometimes arriving with a new surprise or two.
While 'One Day' is refreshingly unique compared to other more recent chick flicks, there are two flaws that hinder it: first, their relationship isn't established well enough from the get-go for us to believe that what they have "true love." Considering how much Dex cares about glamor and popularity - two things that Em couldn't be farther from - we're not even certain that he even loves her for quite a large chunk of the film. This isn't an acting/chemistry flaw, it stems from the writing. The second fault also comes from the screenplay. While the ending of the film doesn't fall into the cliche category, it definitely isn't unique. I'll refrain from spoiling it for you, but I will say that it's a familiar trick that we see a few times each decade. The films that have used this gimmick in the past are typically forgotten because of how audiences react to this cheap trick.
Had 'One Day' better established its characters and firmly built their relationship, it could have been one of the greats. Hathaway does an excellent job, as always, bringing her character to life and fleshing out Em's personality - even though Em is given almost no back story at all. Sturgess does just fine, but his character itself is weak. The directing is slightly above par. The format is just fine. It's literally the lack of believable love and an unnecessarily familiar ending that stop 'One Day' from being highly recommended. Great idea, mediocre execution.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Focus Features' 'One Day' arrives on a BD-50 in a simple blue keepcase. Upon inserting the disc, a Focus vanity reel and skippable trailers for 'Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy,' 'The Debt,' 'Beginners' and 'Honey 2' play before taking you to the standard Universal Studios main menu.
'One Day' hits Blu-ray with a clean 1080p/VC-1 transfer in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While it's not the sharpest transfer out there, there are very few flaws bogging it down.
From the opening shot of Anne Hathaway diving into a pool, it's instantly noticeable how clear the picture quality is. All movement - be it actors or camera movement - is smooth and clear. Fine details, like strands of hairs or patterns on clothes, aren't always evident. At times you can see individual pieces of lint or fuzz on Sturgess' early '90s clothes, other times his stubble appears like a mass of detail-less smudges. While it's inconsistent, it's never bad. Even if the picture isn't as highly detailed as it should be, you still get to stare at a perfectly clear transfer for all 108 minutes of it.
The contrast varies throughout the film, but it's obviously a directorial decision to present the mood or state of a character. The use of lighting throughout the film is enhanced by awesome contrasting. If Sturgess is coked out, the blacks are heavy and dominant. But just like the details, blacks also vary between deep and dark to faded and gray. At times, 'One Day' shifts over to obviously soft focus. In these glaring scenes, halos run rampant.
Depending on the state of the relationship, the color palette shifts throughout 'One Day' from warm to cool. When cool, fleshtones are pale and somewhat sickly. When warm, fleshtones come to natural life, making Em and Dex more attractive than ever. Although the intensity of the color also varies, when the relationship is vibrant, so are the colors. When Dex is craving Em's companionship, her deep blue silk oriental dress is mesmerizing. Although the interior walls of the Mexican restaurant that Em works at are eye-popping yellow, because there's a gap between Dex and Em, the fluorescent lighting strips the life out of her fleshtones. From a design standpoint, 'One Day' is remarkable and, most of the time, the video quality shows it.
'One Day' features an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, a DVS Dolby Digital 2.0 track and Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks. While not completely engaging, the lossless track is clear as could be.
For the part of Em, Hathaway dons an English accent. The Master Audio track allows you to perfectly hear when she nails the accent, as well as the few times she doesn't. The vocal track is always well balanced with the music and effects, never becoming lost. Music often lets you know the current year before pop-up date does. The music spreads throughout all the channels evenly and, a few times, turns your theater into a booming night club. The beautiful score swells and fills the space often.
Environmental noises like street sounds, wind blowing through leaves and seagulls and other beach sounds emit from the surround and rear speakers. The rear channels aren't often used for loud effects, but subtle ambient ones. Bass is also rarely used. In fact, aside from thumping club music, LFE shows up for only one scene where Dex gets destroyed in a bar fight.
Again, 'One Day' is hardly demo-worthy, but it exemplifies how well small and subtle sounds in a lossless track can affect the mood and tone of experiencing a movie.
Not being a fan of the typical cliche-filled romantic dramas of our time, I certainly didn't expect to enjoy 'One Day.' And while it's not the greatest love story out there, it's a lot better than most. Had there been a bigger spark between the two characters and an ending whose uniqueness reflects that of the story at hand, it would be a highly recommended Blu-ray. The audio quality is solid, establishing a fitting environment, and while the video quality lacks consistently high detail, it never dabbles in low quality. All in all, everything seems to be lacking a little, but not nearly enough to make it bad.