The title of the film One Day refers to July 15, though in truth, it refers to over two decades worth of that date. Beginning on July 15, 1988, when Brits Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) graduate from college, attempt a one-night stand and then decide to remain lifelong friends instead, the picture checks in on the lives of the pair every July 15 through the present day. It's a high-concept gimmick that could go either way, and this one ends up parting straight down the middle.
Emma starts out gawky, reclusive and toiling in obscurity, while Dexter is confident, charismatic and famous. The ensuing years impart the expected A Star Is Born career switcheroo, but the focus is mainly on the personal lives of these two best friends and whether they'll eventually decide if they should become romantically entwined or if they should even be buddies anymore (as Emma notes during one of Dexter's obnoxious phases, "I love you, Dext; I just don't like you anymore").
Considering director Lone Scherfig's previous film was 2009's excellent An Education - one of the best films of recent years - it's impossible to consider the frequently choppy One Day anything besides a disappointment. Still, that's not to say it's a total washout: The movie nicely captures the whiplash collision of youthful optimism with strenuous reality, and Hathaway and Sturgess are fine together and even better in their individual scenes. I would be even easier on the film if it wasn't for the last-act tragedy, a grotesque and clumsy development that's less a logical procession of the story and more a shameless stab at multiplex manipulation and pandering.