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The word phenomenon is overused, but it seems to be the only way to properly describe David Nicholls’ staggeringly successful One Day. The distinctive orange cover is, quite literally, everywhere, and the new film looks set to replicate the success of the book. There are even rumours that National Rail are set to put an emergency copy sealed behind glass, just next to the fire extinguisher on every train.
So how does the film hold up? And was the book even that good in the first place? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
The Film by Andrew Eccles
One Day was probably the most written about film of the summer, I myself feel I’ve written too much about it, but in the most part I’m not sure the production was worth all the hype. This hype was inspired by the immense level of popularity David Nichols’ novel had achieved and I am very pleased the book has garnered even more attention as a result.
It’s a pity then that Lone Scherfig’s film leaves me feeling that I have very little to report: it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t great. I don’t even feel particularly inspired to jump on the bandwagon and slate Anne Hathaway for her tour-of-Britain accent. No, it wasn’t good but nor was it the most disastrous effort I’ve ever seen on film as many critics seem to be suggesting. Clearly, they never saw Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October, a film which I spent trying to decipher when in history the USA had felt threatened by Scottish nuclear submarine presence.
Hathaway was decent as Emma, if not at her best. She pulled of the dowdy and struggling writer quite successfully and never appeared too Hollywood for the role. I felt Jim Sturgess somewhat stole the show though, particularly towards the final scenes of the film. He was insufferable, he was desperate and he was charming; he was exactly the Dexter of the novel.
Despite this the film was somewhat meandering throughout; it never really got going. From the opening credits it was unclear whether the dated 90s romcom feel was an intentional reflection of the story’s setting or a failure of Scherfig’s direction. One Day was entertaining, it was consistently enjoyable but ultimately it was forgettable. All things considered I think a third viewing of J.J Abram’s Super 8 would have been money better spent.
The Book by Daisy Johnson
When I got a copy of One Day my dad said he’d seen ‘loads of people reading it on the train.’ And just like that I became part of a mass cultural movement. It was exciting. I was reading a book that must be good because everyone was reading it, a book which must be something blow-your-socks-off different because it was being read worldwide and made into a film. The disgust of most of England at the portrayal of Emma by an American showed that here was a book we actually cared about. It had to be good. Didn’t it?
Well… maybe not. The premise of the book is fairly original: ‘Two people. Twenty Years. One day.’ Emma Morley works in a Mexican restaurant, dreams of being a writer, dates a comedian who isn’t funny and she worries; she worries about her weight, about being alone, about drinking too much. She is the waymost fifteen year old boys describe middle aged women.
Dexter Mayhew, Emma’s counterpart, is the way fifteen year old girls describe men after they have been dumped. He is dastardly: sleeping with lots of women and then not remembering their names. His witty come back after reading Howard’s End reads: “It’s like they’ve been drinking the same cup of tea for 200 pages, and I keep waiting for someone to pull a knife or an alien invasion …”
The book is let down by these characters who are without depth or originality; they evolve in leaps rather than slowly across the years. They are characters best kept in the joke or teenage fiction. The story does have some interesting moments, a few instances of humour which work, but it leaves little to the imagination and the end fails to surprise.
Perhaps there is a more serious note behind this, a reason for pointing out the flaws. Does our enjoyment of One Day suggest something about us? Do we really believe that our world is filled with characters like these? Are we actually enjoying this book; in which case why? Or is this the ultimate ‘emperor’s clothes’ book. Perhaps we are being bamboozled into thinking that this book is good because the person next to us on the train says it is. Are we actually reading this book or are we reading the book that the person before us has read?
Listen, John who gets the 8:15 train to Liverpool Street everyday hasn’t read another book since 1963. Listen, there is something better out there it’s just that John isn’t reading it at the moment.
Here Andrew Eccles discusses the adaptation of books for the big screen, and whether more often than not, classic and popular stories get lost in translation.