“One Day” turns on a gimmick, chronicling the tumultuous, on-again/ off-again romance of two people by dropping in on them the same date — July 15 — each year. It’s a clever device, if not enough to disguise the fact that otherwise, this tearjerker is as old-fashioned as they come.
Adapted by David Nicholls from his best-selling novel, “One Day” follows Emma (Anne Hathaway, “Love and Other Drugs”) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess, “21”). We begin in 1988 as the two, drunk and having just graduated from college in Scotland, hook up for a somewhat shaky one-night stand.So begins a friendship that endures in spite of pronounced differences. Emma is idealistic, but insecure and vulnerable. She drifts from waitressing to teaching, and falls into a relationship with a would-be comedian (Rafe Spall, “Hot Fuzz”), the requisite nice guy who’s wrong for her. Dex is charming, but callow and arrogant; he becomes a TV dance-party host who lets fame go to his head.
These are archetypes, of course, but “One Day” is so deftly executed, from Rachel Portman’s lush musical score to Benoît Delhomme’s sundappled cinematography, you just might forget that you’ve seen this all before. And director Lone Scherfig (“An Education”) wisely gives her top-notch cast plenty of berth.