Turning out to be one of last year’s major critical disappointments, Lone Scherfig’s One Day was released in mid-August by Focus Features and then virtually never talked about again — which is a real shame, in my opinion, because as impeccably designed and performed as Scherfig’s previous An Education was, it always struck me as being something a bit too tidy and painless. One Day, on the contrary, is full of messiness and sorrow, and, I think, all the more interesting for it. At the very least, its thematic ambitions — which, in this genre, are rarely attempted in such a fashion — outshoot the well-groomed, we’ve-seen-it-before coming-of-age stuff in the Carey Mulligan-starrer.
What compelled me to rethink One Day, which I haven’t revisited since seeing it upon the initial release and reviewing it favorably, was a July 4th blog post from Mick LaSalle, who’s an unabashed champion of the film. His out-of-the-gate review was by far the most praise-filled one at the time of distribution, and it really is a nicely observed piece, claiming that the film “is really about two people discovering meaning in their lives — which is next door to saying that “One Day” is about the meaning of life, in general.”
In the recent blog-format write-up, LaSalle sticks his ground, and thinks back to the year 1995, when he was head-over-heels in-love with Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise while most other critics were more aggressively backing Mike Figgis’s Leaving Las Vegas. Linklater’s film, of course, in addition to the Before Sunset follow-up, has since become adored nearly universally, and LaSalle predicts a similar future for Scherfig’s film.
And, indeed, in assessing the best screen kisses in recent years, LaSalle turns to none other than One Day:
“I was thinking about Great Screen Kisses, and it occurred to me today that this is the best of recent years. I don’t know if you’ve seen ONE DAY, but it comes at the beginning of the relationship — but near the end of the movie, when we know what happened to these people. And so the kiss is not just a kiss. The kiss is their Moment, which is what everyone is entitled to and is maybe all anybody ever gets, the moment of being fully alive and fully yourself and totally happy. It’s there, it’s gone, but YOU were there, and it happened, and YOU happened, and life happened. So no matter happens to you, you can live the rest of your life with the dignity of the loved and the beautiful.”
Situations like this, when a big-name critic goes proudly against the grain of a film’s common reception, always interest me, and the more LaSalle talks about One Day, the more I think he may be on to something. If he can consciously write a piece about the peak of recent screen kisses and not even for a second give a name-dorp to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, then there’s no telling exactly how deep his admiration for One Day runs.