In Part One I reviewed One Day and compared it to the phenomenally successful book it’s based upon. This is Part Two, in which I suggest alternatives to Anne Hathaway.
I know, I know. There is no alternative to Anne Hathaway, I hear you cry, members of the “I need Anne Hathaway like oxygen” club. She is undoubtedly a very pretty lady. I certainly did not object when she took her clothes off in Love and Other Drugs and she’ll no doubt look superb in leather in The Dark Knight Rises. She is also talented. She’s won deserved critical acclaim for her performances in Rachel Getting Married and The Devil Wears Prada etc, etc. Whatever her limitations in the accent department, Anne is what you’d call a hot Hollywood property, if you were the type to say such things.
However I think there were stronger candidates for the role of bookish Yorkshire lass Emma in One Day. This is categorically NOT because of her dodgy accent. Ok maybe it is a bit. But there was something disappointing about her performance that went beyond her misguided Emmerdale education.
Director Lone Scherfig has said that whilst One Day: The Book was in love with Emma, One Day: The Film is fascinated by Dexter, and whether he’ll pull through as an alright bloke in the end. For much of the film Jim Sturgess is acting like a dick on telly or being staggeringly ignorant of the emotions of his friends and family. Nevertheless it’s his story, his need for redemption from himself, which drives the movie. In the book we feel, or I felt, more anchored to Emma’s cruelly suffocated potential and deflated ambition. We’re waiting for Dexter to get his act together and save her from her own low confidence.
Perhaps the fact that the film is more centred on Dexter is not just down to changes in emphasis, tone and content Nicholls had to make in the script. Maybe Hathaway’s miscasting also had a role to play in that, in my view harmful, shift. Sturgess excelled as Dexter Mayhew despite the weaknesses of the big screen version. Hathaway was not bad as Emma Morley. But these three (coincidentally British) actresses might’ve been better…
Carey Mulligan worked with One Day’s director Lone Scherfig on her breakthrough picture, An Education. In my opinion she was perhaps the best Emma on offer. She is usually seen as more middle class characters with prim English voices but she would have nailed the studious, quietly creative and brilliant nature of Emma. You can imagine her hunched over a typewriter or book, looking shy, cute and inexplicably alluring. Basically she could play a convincing bookworm with strong principles. She also has the acting chops to deal with Emma’s heartache and traumas later in life. And when she whips off the glasses and comes out of her shell towards the end, when things start going right, audiences would be plausibly wowed at the blossoming beauty. Hathaway looked like a movie star dressing up as geeky and common.
Rebecca Hall starred alongside James McAvoy in Starter for Ten, another David Nicholls book he adapted himself into a movie, with considerably more success. Starter for Ten works well as a whole. It’s predictable but extremely enjoyable stuff. Hall’s character is a constant figure in the background, a determined student activist, who McAvoy’s University Challenge contestant eventually realises he’s meant to be with. She’s adept at being a student and shows an Emma Morley-esque kind nature throughout but the two characters are oceans apart. Could Hall do shy Emma? Her flourishing acting career shows her diversity. My bet is she’d have been as good as Hathaway at least.
Gemma Arterton has been a Bond girl, as well as mastering the regional dialect of the West Country to play frank seductress Tamara Drewe. She’s got double the amount of ticks in the accent column thanks to her role as another Dorset heroine; Tess in the BBC’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles. After Tess Arterton will be no stranger to epic romance but like Hathaway she might be too conventionally pretty to pull off library lover Emma, who got a first in English and History from Edinburgh.
Let’s hope Hathaway makes a better Catwoman…
Words alone cannot describe this programme or the issue it addresses. Or rather my words can’t. The people Discworld author Terry Pratchett meets in this unforgettable hour of television, and indeed Pratchett himself, do their best to talk eloquently and straightforwardly about an impossible subject. Even those living through terminal illness and speaking from experience admit that all they can really do is sum up why they came to make their own individual decision though.
Because words cannot come close to summing up Pratchett’s journey to Dignitas in Switzerland and his own personal battle with Alzheimer’s, which is robbing him of his ability to write and communicate, I shall not say much. If you can steel yourself enough you should watch it because this is really educational, as well as moving and powerful. However of all the emotions associated with the controversy of this documentary I am left with one; anger.
I find myself gripped with fury at those that have denounced Pratchett’s documentary as needlessly inflammatory, wrong and self interested propaganda. Have these critics even watched the thing? Because they come across as ignorant in the worst possible way. Pratchett is clearly coming to terms with his own illness throughout. He does not begin with a “hooray for Dignitas and euthanasia” agenda. The opposite is true; he has grave misgivings but also does not want to die a shell of the man he truly was.
I studied euthanasia in both Law and Philosophy and Ethics at A-Level. As a result I have a very basic understanding of its illegality and the opposing moral cases. I would say that despite the seemingly inhumane law which could prosecute caring spouses who assist or travel with their loved ones to Switzerland, the sensible judgement of judges and prosecutors should not be underestimated. In reality there have been no instances of imprisonment in such cases. It is just possible under the law.
My instinct, as is that of both Pratchett and the very English couple he accompanies to Dignitas, is that there is something wrong about assisted dying. As long as each case is judged sensibly it should remain wrong in principle. But this programme opens my eyes to the other options. Whilst those that are merely “weary of life” should never be assisted to die, in fact they should be helped to live, those with genuinely debilitating illnesses and of sound mind, should get the choice. It would not open up a “slippery slope” to Holocaust style cleansing to clarify somehow in the law that people doing it properly would not be harassed about it.
There are of course the ones left behind. As I said words can’t cope with the enormity of this. I can’t get my head, or indeed my heart, around the issue to express what I feel about it. It certainly seems to be right for some though, there is no denying that. Even if you’re strongly opposed your tears as you watch this will not feel any form of malice towards the bravery of those that choose to go.
I will end with a few, again inadequate, words on bravery. Those mindlessly and excessively labelling this sort of television as evil are simply cowards who don’t know the meaning of courage. Some of them might criticise from a good place because of reasonable concern. But many do not. Many kick up a fuss and complain because they are too scared to even allow others to have the debate. And that is wrong. They must have known what they were watching; the title is not ambiguous. If you really disagree don’t watch, it’s harrowing stuff. But it is also heartfelt. This debate is real and needs to be had. I am angry on behalf of the immensely brave, truly brave people, who took the time to share their stories with the BBC.
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