Because Sturgess is so great, the film is all about him, in a way that the novel never is.
It is he who has the tragic character arc, he who grows as a character, him who you weep for by the end.
Spall is amusing —even though he is robbed of many of his funniest lines in order for the film to focus on the central romance —and steals every scene he’s in, even his climactic one with Dexter, the man he has grown to hate because Emma always loved Dexter more than him.
It’s not so much that she can’t do a Yorkshire accent, though it comes and goes from scene to scene; but the effort of maintaining an English accent of any kind utterly destroys her performance, much as it did her dire attempt to impersonate Jane Austen in Becoming Jane.
She altogether lacks any sexual chemistry with Dexter, and because the script almost entirely airbrushes out her Left-wing politics and self-destructive tendencies with men —her relationship with a married one has disappeared altogether — she comes across as bland and not particularly interesting.
The film works well enough to make it one of 2011’s more entertaining romcoms.
Near the end, it even made me cry — but I fear that some of my tears were of frustration that it wasn’t much, much better.
The story is of two Edinburgh university graduates who become best friends, but fail to come together romantically until almost too late.By showing us the same day — St Swithin’s — over 20 years, it tells the story of their relationship and, through them, the story of a generation.It’s not a wholly original concept — aspects of it are borrowed from Sondheim’s masterly musical Merrily We Roll Along and Bernard Slade’s 1975 stage comedy Same Time, Next Year — but it is a splendid conceit, which shows us the passing of time and the missed opportunities many of us come to regret in middle age.The film has a five-star, sensational leading performance by Jim Sturgess as Dexter, a public-school smoothie who can’t resist a pretty female face or the attractions of quick and easy fame on the telly.In many ways, he personifies the arrogance of youth.Sturgess captures brilliantly Dexter’s self-destructiveness and ability to deceive himself, if no one else, while his eyes reflect his guilt at never quite doing the right thing by his long-term best friend Emma (Anne Hathaway) or his parents (Ken Stott and Patricia Clarkson).