‘One Day’: Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess endure endless platonic love

IN THE misleadingly titled "One Day," the will-they-or-won't-they/made-for-each-other scenario gets stretched tortuously on the rack of time.

Entitled rich kid Dex (Jim Sturgess) finds a soul mate in struggling writer/waitress Emma (Anne Hathaway), but doesn't want to spoil their prized intimacy with sex.

This leads to a great many scenes of tousling, cuddling and subtextual longing - all pointing to a kiss that keeps missing Hathaway's mouth and hitting her forehead.

This happens  . . .   50 times. Over a span of decades. The movie's narrative gimmick, borrowed from David Nicholls' witty, readable best-seller, is that we drop in on the pair every July 15 for a progress report (why this movie is released just three weeks after July 15 is a mystery that will have an old-school Hollywood showman like Darryl Zanuck puking in his grave).

These progress reports contain little progress. The relationship between these two London likebirds stays platonic throughout the administrations of Thatcher, Major and Blair.

She takes a goofball placeholding boyfriend (Rafe Spall, Tim's son). Meanwhile Dex goes through his unappealing character arc - that of the apparently shallow man who's revealed to be actually shallow, a condition he self-medicates with booze and drugs.

He's a little drunker, less successful, more pathetic each July 15, and is systematically denounced by his dying mother (Patricia Clarkson) and other characters.

"One Day" has a few cute scenes, but it is not (as some have described it) a romantic comedy. It grows more melancholy by the day (meaning July 15), and after awhile it dawns on us why the studio wanted melancholy Dane Lone Sherfig ("An Education") for the job.

"One Day" is more of a piece with a march-of-time, thwarted love epic like "The Way We Were," and those in the date-movie crowd who've not read the book need to prepare for an extremely uncute ending.

Sherfig and her movie get points for honoring the book's prickly, downbeat content (Nicholls himself wrote the screenplay), but "One Day" turns out to be one of those apparently cinematic feats of writing that really doesn't fit the screen.

One Day

Directed by Lone Scherfig. With Jim Sturgess, Romola Garai, Rafe Spall, Anne Hathaway, Ken Stott, Patricia Clarkson. Distributed by Focus Features.

Running time: 1 hours, 47 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse).