What begins as an almost sexy encounter between Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) on grad night at Edinburgh University in 1988 turns into a saga of their friendship. We’re privy to the following 20 years of their respective lives, every July 15, as each finds or loses ambition---Sturgess, a coked-up TV host who falls from fame, and Hathaway, a waitress turned teacher and novelist. The secondary characters, including Sturgess’ mother (Patricia Clarkson), remain barely peripheral. Director Lone Scherfig’s (An Education) attempt to interpret David Nicholls’ novel for the screen---refreshingly anti-Hollywood plot twists and all---keeps Hathaway, Sturgess and a potentially engrossing story at a telescopic distance. It’s a shame lack of character development gets in the way of a worthwhile cast and story; two decades is too much ground to cover in less than a couple hours.