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Genre Analysis of The Film "One Day" (2011)

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Genre Analysis of The Film "One Day" (2011) essay
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Genre Analysis: One Day (2011)

Film Synopsis

On July 15, 1988 – the day of their college graduation – two people from opposite sides of the tracks begin a lifelong friendship. Emma, an idealist from a working-class family, wants to make the world a better place. Dexter, a playboy, thinks the world is his oyster. For the next 20 years, the two friends reunite on the 15th of each July, sharing dreams, tears and laughter — until they discover what they’ve been searching for, each other.

Title of the piece

Up until now, this certain film has never left my heart. One Day is my je ne sais quoi. That is why it’s the piece I have chosen to make a genre analysis on. One Day is a British-American romantic drama film directed by Lone Scherfig, adapted from David Nicholls’ best selling novel of the same name, who was also the scriptwriter of the said film. Released in 2011, the film was a moderate success commercially, grossing over $56 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. One Day also furthered Scherfig’s career and her capacity to reach a broader audience since this film reached a mildly larger audience than any of her previous films.

Summary of the piece

One Day follows the lives of two friends, Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess), who move in and out of each other’s lives over the course of almost twenty years. Emma is a working-class girl of principle and ambition who dreams of making the world a better place while Dexter is a wealthy charmer who dreams that the world will be his playground. After one day together – July 15, 1988 – their college graduation on St. Swithin’s Day, they begin a friendship that will last a lifetime. For the next two decades, key moments of their relationship are experienced over several July 15ths in their lives. Dex and Em are shown each year on the same date – sometimes together, sometimes not; as they journey through their friendship and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. Somewhere along their journey, these two people realize that what they are searching and hoping for is each other all along. However, just as when they found the love they’ve long been looking for in each other, they face the nature of love and life – that every love story ends with death; if you just follow it long enough.

Communicative event or the Mass Media form

One Day is a novel (book) adapted and turned into a film.

Communicative Purpose

Just like any other film, One Day is produced to make a profit. But more than that, it intends to entertain the audience and appeal to their emotions. The film is also an expression of talents on the craft of film making, especially of those who worked behind the scenes for its completion. In a deeper sense, the purpose of the film is to teach about the reality of life, no matter how painful and unacceptable it is. The film shows how human beings are at their worst, best, and everything in between when it comes to love. It is about missed chances and failing to embrace the moment; disappointments and regrets; wasting good fortune and life in the pursuit of trivialities; settling for second best; and the cruelty of self-realization coming later in life when it was needed much earlier.

Universal genre

The film’s genre is romantic drama. It’s because the film dwells on the elements of romantic love. It showcases what it’s like when someone falls in love and the actions people do for love. One Day also presents how people usually take love for granted then regret later on in life for the opportunities they never took and missed. It highlights the need to say what one feels for another before it’s too late. Moreover, the film reminds us of the brevity of life and its face-slapping reality which we can never prepare for – death.

The Creator

Lone Scherfig (born May 2, 1959) is a Danish film director and screenwriter who graduated from the National Film School of Denmark in 1984 and began her career as a director with the television film “Margrethes elsker” in 1985. She has been involved with the Dogme ‘95 film movement and has been widely critically acclaimed for several of her movies, including the Oscar-nominated film “An Education” in 2009 which was nominated for three (3) Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay; won twenty-five (25) awards and nominated for fifty-six (56). She directed almost twenty (20) movies since the 1980s. Through both experimenting with creative constraints and her smart attention to detail, she has come to be recognized as a blossoming talent in the film industry.

Production Companies

Focus Pictures is a co-producer of One Day. It is an American film production and distribution company, owned by Comcast through Universal Piforeig and is founded by David Linde in 2002. Together with Focus Pictures, Random House Studio House is also a co-producer of One Day. It is a production company responsible for adapting books published by Penguin Random House to film and TV. The company, originally owned by Penguin Random House, was transferred to Penguin Random House’s grandniece company via its co-owner Bertelsmann Fremantle in 2016.

Film4 Productions co-finances the film, One Day. It is a British film production company owned by Channel Four Television Corporation. The company has been responsible for backing a large number of films made in the United Kingdom. The company’s first production was Walter, directed by Stephen Frears, which was released in 1982.

Specific Audience

The film One Day has been rated PG-13 because it contains sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse. Those who are fans of missed opportunity love stories would definitely love this film. However, although the themes may be relatable for older teens, younger viewers might not appreciate the enormity of the highs and lows of the characters’ friendship and the realistic depiction of the damage people can inflict even to those they love most.

Existing Reviews

“It may not truly capture the complexities of its source material, but One Day is funny, winning and entertaining – if little else.” – Ian Freer, Empire “Watch it for its adaptation of David Nicholl’s bestseller – the pages of the book do seem to come to life, though in bits and pieces.” – Times of India “It’s what a Nicholas Sparks movie would be if it were aimed at grown women rather than teenage girls.” – Eric Snider, “The film might make the book look less astute and interesting than it is, but it still has an undeniable emotional wallop by its close.” – Dave Calhoun, Time Out “There is certainly enough, in Scherfig’s One Day, to touch susceptible heartstrings, but the tug is not as forceful as it could have been.” – Jenny McCartney, Seven Magazine.

Underlying Themes

One Day conveys stated and implied themes. The stated theme of the film would be of course, love. Love for friends, family, and romantic kind. Dexter and Emma would have started off as lovers on St. Swithin’s Day, July 15th of 1988, but then made the promise of friendship later on that day along with the agreement to meet each other on the same day, every year. It can also be seen in the film that Dexter grew close with his mother, Alison (Patricia Clarkson). On 15th of July 1994, he visited his parents and there he knew that his mother has been diagnosed with cancer and is terminally ill. Love then, is seen in many aspects in the film.

Later on, Dexter and Emma found lovers of their own: Dexter even had a daughter and was engaged to Sylvie (Romola Garai); and Emma lived together with Ian (Rafe Spall) despite of him being a deadbeat – which of course, did not turned out well since Dex and Em had feelings for each other, only that it was hidden and waiting to be said. The implied theme in the film would be the bravery to express what one feels for another. I personally think that the rules Dexter and Emma made during their holiday on the 15th of July 1992 hindered their supposed confession. They would have become lovers on that day but then did not because of Rule #2 – No flirting, no starting anything. [Dexter] has a girlfriend, and they just can’t go there. If only they said what they truly felt, they wouldn’t have wasted such long years only to find out that there were for each other in the end. The film also showed implied themes of life’s reality.

Firstly, it’s hard to tell what you feel to a person who is your best friend. One would not risk ruining the strong bond and friendship built over the years. Secondly, it’s a reality that people settle for less either because they’ve waited long enough for the best or that the best was already taken from them. It seemed that Emma only lived together with Ian to battle out Dexter’s engagement with Sylvie. Their unexpressed jealousy only made them farther apart. Lastly, death is indeed inevitable. On the 15th of July 2004, when Dex and Em were engaged, was the time when she was taken away from him. I personally felt heartbroken when Emma was hit by a truck as she rode a bike at the end of a blind alley. I did not expect it to happen. I feel regretful for their lost years and for the years they were supposed to face together not as best friends but as lovers. I haven’t accepted that up to now, actually. For me, the waiting for almost two decades just for romantic love to happen between them was not justified by Emma’s abrupt death. They didn’t even get to have a child! Dexter was left behind, and it was painful to watch him succumb to his grief. But I guess it was being depicted in the film to make one realize that death is an inescapable part of life, that the people you love would eventually pass away. One could never be truly prepared for what’s going to happen tomorrow because not everything goes into your liking.

Similar Piece

I regard “Love, Rosie” as a film that’s similar to One Day. It is a 2014 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Christian Ditter and written by Juliette Towhidi, based on the 2004 novel “Where Rainbows End” by Irish author, Cecelia Ahern. They are similar because aside from it is also adapted from a novel, the main characters of Love, Rosie, Alex Stewart (Sam Claflin) and Rosie Dunne (Lily Collins) are also best friends. On Rosie’s 18th birthday, it struck them that there could be something more than friendship between them. But fate always kept them apart, until one day they finally find out that they love each other. The film also depicts missed opportunities and long-time realization of love for each other. Below is its synopsis. Best friends Rosie and Alex are suddenly separated when Alex and his family move from Dublin to America. Can their friendship survive years and miles? Will they gamble everything for true love?

Another film that I regard similar to One Day is the film “The Fault in our Stars”. It is a 2014 American romantic tragedy film directed by Josh Boone, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by John Green. The film is similar with One Day because aside from it being adapted from a novel, the film also shows a similar theme. It depicts life’s reality, especially the inevitability of death; knowing that the main characters, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) are both cancer patients. Death for them would only be a step away. Just like One Day, a main character also dies in the end. Below is its synopsis. Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old cancer patient, meets and falls in love with Gus Waters, a similarly afflicted teen from her cancer support group. Hazel feels that Gus really understands her. They both share the same acerbic wit and a love of books, especially Grace’s touchstone, “An Imperial Affliction” by Peter Van Houten. When Gus scores an invitation to meet the reclusive author, he and Hazel embark on the adventure of their brief lives.


The film’s most noticeable element would be its transitions, playing out over the years (1988-2011), all but featuring one day. There were several settings seen in the film. Filming took place on location in Scotland, England and France. It is worth noticing as well that the film did a good job in showing how the characters changed through time – in their appearance mostly, and certainly along with the changes in the different settings as well. It is like watching a time-lapse film, but with enough speed to linger upon scenes of their evolving love.


Emma Morley was shown in the film as a person of the lower class, while Dexter Mayhew of the upper class, wealthy and all. In the film, Emma Morley worked as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant in the year 1990 while Dexter became a host of a television show in the year 1993. The gap between their jobs is clearly seen since Emma who once aspired to write with London being her inspiration wasn’t able to do so because she had to work and earn money; while Dexter on the other hand, had a stable career as he was beginning to be the one of the famous hosts on TV. Later on, he hosted another show called Late Night Lockin and another on video games. He was more successful compared to Emma who never had time to write anything. There was also a time in 1996 when Emma goes out to meet Dexter at a posh club and had a heated argument because Dexter, under the influence of drugs, had insulted Emma on her job as a teacher. He said to Emma, “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” However, despite of Dexter’s wealth and lush life, there was a time when he was 32 and did not know what to do in his life anymore. His insult to Emma was only brought upon by his frustrations at work and grief for his deceased mother. He needed Emma to be there for him, only that he said the wrong words. But with Emma being hurt replied, “I love you, Dexter. I just don’t like you anymore.”


Emma: “London’s swallowed me up. I thought I’d make a difference, but no one knows I’m here.”Dexter: “Listen, listen. Nothing truly good was ever easy.” The dialogue above happened when Emma felt hopeless living alone in London and she talked to Dexter about it through the telephone. The line “I thought I’d make a difference” demonstrates Emma’s idealistic character in the film. Dexter’s reply of “Nothing truly good was ever easy” was a spot-on advice despite of him continuing his habit of being a playboy in Paris. I think that this dialogue of them was very memorable that it makes me refer it to the struggles they’ve been through in the film. Indeed, nothing good is easy – and that includes Dexter and Emma’s relationship. Maybe the long years of waiting for them to realize their love for each other is now justified by this certain line. Because when they finally found each other, it was more than good; that why it was never easy.

Situational Context in Introspective Approach

“Having a best friend is the greatest, until you fall in love with them.” This anonymous quote would probably fit the film’s situation. It is hard to risk a friendship in the pursuit of love because once it fails, there’s nothing else to be but strangers. Dexter and Emma became the best of friends as the film progressed. However, it was evident that both of them are slowly falling for each other. All they needed was the courage to say it. Both of them didn’t wanna risk losing each other just because of what they felt so they thought they’d be better off as best friends. Although they found each other in the end and knew what they truly felt for one another, the time it took them to reach to that realization was too long that they missed a lot of moments where they should’ve been together. If I were to be put in the same situation, I’d rather tell that person what I feel. Because it would probably be more difficult living the rest of my life knowing that I felt something but never acted upon because of whatever reason I have in my head. The unsaid words would forever haunt me. At least if ever it fails, I could say that I tried. I’d rather feel defeated than feel regretful.

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