One Day Like This…

Christopher Peterson via Wikimedia Commons

I still haven’t seen this. And I won’t.

One Day, adapted from the David Nicholls’ novel of the same name and starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, looks set to be the 500 Days of Summer of, well, this summer.
The story follows the will-they-won’t they relationship of two university graduates, Dexter and Emma, in late ‘80s/early ‘90s Britain. Because of Hollywood’s record of turning decent novels into bits of candyfloss, I can’t help but fear that they will butcher a wonderful book.
Emma is a serious-minded, permanently single, working-class History student with a terrible haircut and an incredibly annoying housemate whose hobbies include leaving her greying knickers on the sitting room radiator to dry. Emma has had a crush on the slightly posh, very dashing and very arrogant Dexter Mayhew throughout college. On the night of their graduation, the 15th of July 1988, they almost sleep together. The story follows them as they almost sleep together for the next twenty years.
Emma, despite her first class honours, spends the next two years working in the worst Mexican restaurant in London, while Dexter presents a tragic satellite show, largin’ it, where viewers are encouraged to send in pictures of their hideous girlfriends. It’s not long before he gets himself a celebrity girlfriend and a drug habit. The novel checks in on them annually on the anniversary of that fateful day. Emma’s career becomes modestly successful and she ends up writing a 21stcentury version of Malory Towers; Dexter, however, finds himself shunted to the predawn slot on an obscure satellite channel before losing his job altogether. Emma falls into a relationship with the highly unfunny comedian Ian; Dexter has a string of girlfriends before marrying the wintry Sylvie.
Of course the reason why none of their relationships work is because Dexter and Emma are clearly meant to be together. But to his credit Nicholls does not take the easy route and never shies away from depicting either character at their worst.
In the early chapters, the drama of being in your early twenties is beautifully captured; Dexter drinks and screws his way around Europe and Emma feels increasingly trapped by her stale life in London, and whenever they meet they have almighty slanging matches. Dexter becomes unbearable under the influence of minor celebrity; when Emma walks away from their friendship it’s heartbreaking. In places the novel is close to the bone for anyone who’s ever had a tumultuous relationship or even friendship, or been stuck in a hellish job, or even realised that life can be sometimes disappointing. In short, just about anyone.
Done right, One Day could make a beautiful film. But just in case it doesn’t, beg, steal or borrow a copy of One Day. It’s well worth it.