One Day, Lone Scherfig, 108 mins, (12A)
Conan the Barbarian, Marcus Nispel, 112 mins (15)

The surprisingly enervating film of David Nicholls' hit novel may win you over in the end, but it would have been better as a four-hour TV mini-series

Just in case you're one of the seven people in the country who haven't read One Day, David Nicholls' hit novel tracks the lives of two mostly platonic friends, Emma and Dexter, over 20 years.

It begins when they nearly sleep together the morning after their graduation from Edinburgh University, and it checks in on them on the same date – 15 July – of every successive year, as we wait to see if they're ever going to put us out of our misery and become a couple.

Now, considering that novels tend to be divided into chapters, and that they take a while to read, they're the ideal form for a story with such an episodic structure and protracted time span. But considering that films aren't divided into chapters, and are usually over and done with in less than two hours, you can see immediately why a film of One Day might have problems. More than anything, it reminded me of those "Previously on ..." montages which open the later episodes of TV drama serials.

In order to fit in a taster of what Emma and Dexter are up to every year, the screenplay, also written by Nicholls, can't give us anything except a brief scene establishing where they're living and working – and then it's time to jump forward another 12 months.

We see Emma (a wobbly-accented Anne Hathaway) settling into a waitressing job in a Mexican restaurant, and Dexter (an uncomfortable Jim Sturgess) drifting in and out of a late-night TV career. But we don't get to see them hanging out together, or opening up about their feelings, so we never know why they persist in viewing themselves as friends, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The irony is that Nicholls' background as a television dramatist shines through the novel's comic set pieces, and yet these set pieces – the most visual, cinematic parts of the book – keep falling by the wayside in the film's dash through the decades. And without them, One Day is fundamentally the depressing story of a man who's ruining his life.

For a film that covers 20 years so hastily, it's odd how enervated One Day is. But, eventually, the pervasive gloominess does serve some purpose. As Sturgess's hair gets greyer and greyer, the film – while a failure as a will-they-won't-they romance – becomes quite effective as a meditation on what it's like to grow old, tired and disillusioned.

It must be effective, because by the closing stretches, the viewer is feeling pretty old, tired and disillusioned, too. And then, once One Day has worn its audience down, it arrives at a 10-minute sequence of Emma and Dexter enjoying each other's company, and at last the fact that they've been fending each other off for so long starts to seem poignant rather than perverse. By the very end, then, One Day had won me over. But a four-hour TV mini-series would have been better. They've got all the "Previously on ..." montages in the can already.

Conan the Barbarian is the kind of film which just makes you feel sorry for everyone involved. After all, a swords'n'sorcery saga takes a lot of work, and I found myself fretting about all the hours Jason Momoa must have spent in the gym to get those muscles, all the expense that must gone into the ridiculous costumes and sets, all that effort that must gone into lugging lights and cameras to the Bulgarian hills and caves where the film was shot ... all to make such a noisy, bombastic load of nonsense.

Bearing only a passing resemblance to Robert E Howard's 1930s stories, the plot has something to do with a necromancer's video-game quest for the shards of a mystical mask, and Conan's quest to twirl his sword around like a majorette while shouting "Yarrghh!". But I wouldn't worry too much about the whys and wherefores: when a film has an entire mountain collapsing for no reason, it's obvious that the script wasn't a priority.

The 3D, by the way, is the lousiest since Clash of the Titans.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees Fright Night, with David Tennant in his long-awaited first major film role, starring alongside Colin Farrell

Film Choice

Brendan Gleeson puts a vigorous Irish spin on the bad-cop thriller, in John Michael McDonagh's uproarious, juicily written comedy The Guard. And a touch of vintage English cynicism comes courtesy of Alec Guinness, Dennis Price and director Robert Hamer, in Ealing's enduring satire Kind Hearts and Coronets, now re-released.

Also Showing: 28/08/2011

Powder (100 mins, 15)

One of the year's most amateurish films, Powder is an incoherent Britflick featuring a morose indie singer who stands around in an almost catatonic trance while irritating hangers-on declare that he's a genius. Never have sex and drugs and rock'n'roll seemed so dull.

R: Hit First, Hit Hardest (99 mins, 18)

This low-key Danish prison drama is convincingly grim, but is the same old story of a laconic youth struggling to survive by doing what Mr Big tells him. It pales into insignificance next to last year's A Prophet. Incidentally, in Denmark it was just called R. The dopey subtitle was added for the international market, presumably to fool us into thinking it might be a Jason Statham movie.

Final Destination 5 (90 mins, 15)

The most repetitive of horror franchises is back again: each new episode brings so few twists to the ghoulish formula that it's less of a sequel than a remake of the first one. But FD5 is fine if you're in the mood for some humour that's both tongue-in-cheek and iron-spike-through-face, and at least the use of 3D makes sense when this many sharp implements are being hurled at the viewer.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn