Dir: Simon Cellan Jones. UK 2002. 91mins.
Spectacularly misnamed, The One And Only is anything but exceptional. Instead, it is a feeble cookie cutter comedy which represents a real disappointment given the considerable previous achievements of the talent involved: producer Leslee Udwin (East Is East), writer Peter Flannery (the BBC series Our Friends In The North, Funny Bones) and director Simon Cellan Jones (Our Friends..., acclaimed film debut, Some Voices).
Based on a 1999 Danish film, Susanne Bier's Den Eneste Ene, it is also further proof that the unassuming blend of domestic tragi-comedy, at which Danish directors have excelled (Mifune, Italian For Beginners and Bier's own latest film, the Danish Oscar entry, Open Hearts), is surprisingly difficult to replicate. Without a Hugh Grant or a Renee Zellweger to add the cast a touch of lustre, The One And Only had a poor performance on its opening weekend, taking £61,413 from 136 screens for a lacklustre £450 screen average. International prospects are unlikely to be any better.
The story tracks a group of affluent twenty-somethings living in Newcastle, northern England. Stevie (Justine Waddell) is married - happily she thinks - to Sonny, a flamboyant, philandering Italian football star (a ripe comic performance from Jonathan Cake), who talks her into having a child. Barely is the babe conceived, however, than Stevie falls heavily for nice-guy Neil (Roxburgh, the lecherous Duke in Moulin Rouge) after he comes to their new house to fit a kitchen.
His own marriage is tense for the opposite reason. Obsessed with starting a family, his neurotic wife Jenny (Aisling O'Sullivan) has railroaded Neil - who is infertile - into adopting an African child. Meanwhile, Stevie, discovering her husband's taste for playing away, is ready for a new relationship. And, in yet another cliche of the genre, Neil and Stevie's two comic-relief best friends (Patsy Kensit and Michael Hodgson) are embarking on a volatile romance of their own.
The frothy mood suffers a body blow from which the film never recovers after one major character unexpectedly dies half-way in (although it gives the otherwise dull Neil one stand-out scene). This event also removes one of the main obstacles to the central romance, and Flannery has a hard time desperately inventing flimsy pretexts to keep the couple apart.
The story is set in Newcastle because, supposedly, the characters' struggle to change their lives mirrors the city's cultural transformation. Local landmarks and the characters' lifestyle are attractively shot, but the film ends up looking like a feature-length commercial for urban renewal.
Prod co: Assassin, Pathe, TFI Internationa
UK dist: Pathe UK
Int'l sales: TFI/Pathe Int'l
Prod: Leslee Udwin
Scr: Peter Flannery, based on Den Eneste Ene by Susanne Bier
Cinematography: Remi Adefarasin
Prod des: Zoe Macleod
Ed: Pia Di Cialua
Music: Gabriel Yared
Main cast: Richard Roxburgh, Justine Waddell, Jonathan Cake, Patsy Kensit, Aisling O'Sullivan, Michael Hodgson