St. Swithin’s Day is July 15. If it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, the English believe it will rain for forty days. Perhaps the novel and now the movie “One Day,” set on a series of July fifteenths, was originally intended to provoke forty days of reader and viewer tears.
The saint is associated with Winchester, home of one of the snootiest of English Public Schools (private high schools). One of “One Day’s” characters, Dex, attended the Winchester School. Then, as he was finishing at the university, he spent a sexless but friendly night with classmate Emma on a St. Swithin’s Day.
The movie follows the couple by peeking in at what they are doing most years between 1994, when they have their friendly tet-a-tet, and 2011. During most of that time they are drawn to each other, but they are friends rather than lovers.
In fact, Dex (played by Jim Sturgess, who viewers may remember from “Across the Universe”), is busy bedding other beauties. He dissipates on the continent for a short time, then comes home to take a job as a t.v. presenter. The costumers and hairdresses treat Sturgess as they would an actress, giving him clothes and hair styles emblematic of his self concept.
He looks like Alvin Stardust the last time he visits his dying mother (Patricia Clarkson) out in the country. He changes as his fame as “Most Annoying Man on Telly” wins him less and less employment. But the residual of his notoriety may help him to meet and marry a blonde who presents him with a daughter before, predictably, decamping with his boss. Economic times get tough for Dexter.
The reverse is true for his college bud Emma (Anne Hathaway). She escapes from work as a waitress in a London Tex-Mex restaurant to become a school teacher, while living with the well-intended but hapless would-be comedian Ian (Rafe Spall). Then a children’s book of hers is published, and it seems to provide her with a considerable boost in income. She goes to France to write and takes a Parisian jazz pianist as a lover.
Will our focus two-some ever get together? Will their professional and personal trajectories ever cross? These are the plot’s concerns. Its message is that association with women calms the swings of male misbehavior.
Late in the film Dex appears beside his widower father, with the two of them dressed in nearly identical pajamas, to watch the boob tube. Pop says men who have lost spouses should go on behaving as if their significant others were still with them, and offers himself as an example.
But Danish director Lone Schefig’s movie isn’t usually concerned with offering conclusions. Most of the film it shows us Emma and Dex suffering along, usually him very loudly and her fairly quietly. Their mid July meetings look like fun even if the film doesn’t really show why they would be enjoyable. Or why it takes so long for the two of them to admit to their mutual attraction.
The film is better acted than its lead is dressed—Hathaway is incommoded by frumpy outfits even when she is supposed to be rich and successful, and those big eye-glasses weren’t popular in the late 80s so much as in the early 70s. The actress doesn’t have great range, but one goes along with her. Sturgess, a former musician, is a tad brittle but convincing. Clarkson and Ken Stott show again why they deserve their reputations.
And, sure, the movie is “Love Story.” But the dialog is pretty good, the settings are fine, and I found it generally diverting for a film about the first rainy day of forty.