Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lone Scherfig: Reeling in the Years (One Day)

Jim Sturgess, Anne Hathaway, One Day, Focus Features, 2011.

Love and romance are dominant dynamics which propel and shape art into emotional undercurrents that sweep us up. As with any human drive, longing and desire can be manipulated into a false intermediary for profit motive. Art should move the spectator into admiring its construction and look at their own lives differently or become more aware of how they approach the world and in turn, art itself. Movies must make money first. If they can be honest or true while maintaining a shape or style, then they are dually triumphant.

Romance has denigrated into the sappy bottom line of dreary "chick" flicks. Movies like The Notebook, Failure to Launch, and Life As We Know It are so patently false and insulting in their representations of the real world that they become tiresome caricatures,  imitations of life in the reel world.

Lone Scherfig's new romantic drama, One Day, comes as a refreshing oasis in a desert of lifeless love duds. Based on a bestselling novel, the picture is nothing new, but so lovingly made, so close to the bone in its emotions and form, that it never feels also ran. Scherfig has proven herself a pro at human drama laced with perspective. Her pictures Italian for Beginners, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and An Education were all brilliantly realized thematically, stylistically and empathetically. Her tragic Dane spirit has been touched by a dark glint of sarcasm which melds to make her a singular talent.

One Day is her second British set drama, after the brilliantly realized An Education. While that film felt more defined in its motivations as a period coming of age/loss of innocence fable, aided by Nick Hornby's graet script, this one is less forceful and specific in its intentions. Recalling Robert Mulligan's hard edged 70s weepie Same Time, Next Year, Scherfig and writer David Nicholls follow the convergent trajectories of two British schoolkids as they grow up, pursue careers, fall in and out of other relationships, endure the good and the bad times, all while pining for one another.

Scherfig keeps it all balanced, feeling organic while encased in the forces of melodrama. We believe in these characters, and though they may be star crossed, it all feels like a genuine imitation of life. Anne Hathaway and especially Jim Sturgess are in top form, their chemistry palpable. The supporting cast including Patricia Clarkson, Romola Garai and Jodie Whitakker is excellent. Benoit Delhomme's camera work is voluptuous in its earthen, passionate colors. Rachel Portman's music score is elegiac and lovable, ideally accentuating the unrequited desire contained within.

Although it may all not feel completely smooth, for what it is its damn well done. The films elliptical structure shows the anniversary of the day Emma and met over twenty odd years, making for a pleasantly distinctive outline. It all feels lived in yet deliberate, complex as both a minor work of cinematic art and a heartrending actualization of two pining lovers reeling in the years.

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