What Do You Think? (Accents in Films)

I am always fascinated by accents (or lack thereof) in films. On a related matter, I have read a lot about this week’s film release of One Day, which stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess and is directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education). David Nicholls adapted his best-selling novel for the screen. David Nicholls also wrote the novel and screenplay Starter For Ten. Although I did not read this novel, I did enjoy the film.

Now back to One Day. Much is being made about the success or failure of Anne Hathaway’s efforts at a Yorkshire (Leeds) accent. As a self-confessed Anglophile, I am able to distinguish between some (I repeat SOME) regional accents from the greater United Kingdom; but I am a far from an expert. I defer to folks who are from the area to make that distinction. However, based on a couple of clips I have seen of the movie, I am left a bit perplexed. To my ear, her voice is a bit “whispier” than in its American incarnation, but it does not sound too distinctly British, much less from the north of England.

The Guardian newspaper (UK) posted a pretty entertaining piece on their movie blog on the very subject. My personal favorite was listening to Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I say all this with the accepting that I can only imagine how challenging it is for actors to not only take on the challenge of embodying another character but to have that compounded with trying to master an accent foreign to them. I get occasionally and momentarily distracted when I hear non-Americans working to tackle the accent, especially when you get down to regions – notably the Northeast (Boston and New York). In spite of this, I have been able to enjoy the films even in light of being less-than-convinced by the accent that I hear (Emma Thompson in Dead Again immediately comes to mind).

The real question for people who have a problem with the accent, will this deter you from seeing the film? More generally, have you ever let your accent reservations affect your ability to enjoy a film?

Please share your comments below.