Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Wait for One Day

Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Wait for One Day

Article excerpt

The perfect soulmate is an illusion that can ruin your life

The correct response to the film One Day is, apparently, to cry your eyes out. Me, I couldn't squeeze a single tear; in fact the sentiment I could barely suppress throughout was rising irritation. If ever two characters needed a slap it's the hero and heroine of One Day . Let me explain. This is a film based on David Nicholls's best-selling novel - and I don't think I'm giving too much away here given the number of spoiler reviews - about a boy and a girl who never quite get it together for years and years, almost until it's too late.

For most of 20 years, in fact, between 1988 and 2004, she fancies him and he quite fancies her but he is so distracted by the number of floozies who want to have sex with him, he never quite realises that the girl he nearly slept with on their graduation day at Edinburgh University, the one he finds pretty and intelligent with strong views on nuclear weapons, is in fact the girl he should have married right at the start. Fortunately, she has been holding a candle for him for about 14 years.

Well, what's the problem? It is that women, to judge from the response on the internet, seem to regard One Day as Groundhog Day , namely, the story of their lives. It's an extended exposition, in fact, of what's known as British men's Failure To Commit (see Bridget Jones , passim). It's about a man who seems to be as untroubled by the instinct to settle down and have a family (when Dexter does, it's by accident) as, well, an awful lot of men of that vintage. Hardly less marvellous is Emma's willingness to hanker after him all that time rather than finding a better offer while she still looks fabulous (not every woman actually improves with age, as Anne Hathaway does here).

For women, the really pernicious thing about the story, book as well as film, is that it plays to the notion that there is, out there, your ideal mate, and you just have to hang on for long enough until he turns up. Well, there may well be a Dexter for your Emma. But if there isn't, there's almost certainly a Tom, Dick, Harry or Tristram who is a perfectly decent alternative. The pervasive illusion of there being just one soulmate out there is one of the reasons why so many women fail to take a pragmatic approach to relationships - which is not necessarily to settle for the ghastly compromise character in this film. …

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