One True Thing is based on Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Anna Quindlen’s 1995
novel of the same name. Lauded for her probing social issue column in the New York Times
in the 1980s, Quindlen turned to fiction in the 1990s. With One True Thing, the story of a
high-powered New York writer forced home under difficult circumstances, Quindlen
demonstrated her ability to bring humor, insight and honesty to some of the most highly
emotional and personal conflicts facing children and parents — not least of all,
understanding one another.
"Universal theme of parents and children learning from
one another’s lives"
When producer Harry Ufland first read Quindlen’s novel, he was moved by the
universal theme of parents and children learning from one another’s lives. "I
thought Anna had written an extraordinary story about mother-daughter and father-daughter
relationships," says Ufland. "She really got to the core of this idea that few
people really understand their parents even if they think they do."
Ufland interviewed dozens of screenwriters before establishing a lengthy collaboration
with Karen Croner.
Croner gave the film version a unique voice, setting the story firmly in the 1980s when
so many career women came of adult age. "I was fascinated by how the novel depicted
the enormous difference between these two generations of women, the stay-at-home mother
and the ambitious, working daughter and I decided to focus on that relationship. I also
wanted it to be about life, about how a daughter comes to life as she comes to know her
mother before it’s too late."
Croner adds: "I wanted the screenplay to ask the questions how do you love your
parents, despite their terrible advice, their weaknesses? How can you take what’s
positive about them and leave behind what you can’t accept? Being able to do that is
what growing up is about." For Carl Franklin, the story presented an opportunity to
tackle a film unlike any he has directed. Best known for the acclaimed independent feature
One False Move and the moody, stylish Devil in a Blue Dress, Franklin might have been an
unlikely choice for ONE TRUE THING -- except that his passion for the project was
unsinkable. The story was clearly in keeping with one of his foremost concerns: the
importance of family and community in diverse American lives.
"I was deeply moved" director
"I read the script on a plane and I just couldn’t stop crying," says
Franklin, a man who doesn’t look as though he is a sop, with his expressive eyes, a
small beard and a look that would work on a black drug shark (no offence, Carl). "I
was deeply moved not only by the characters but because here was a screenplay that really
delved into the primary relationship between men and women, mothers and daughters, fathers
and daughters — the relationships that are so fundamental to contemporary life and
who we are."
Franklin was particularly fascinated by the antagonistic relationship between Ellen and
Kate Gulden — two vibrant women of different generations who have led very different
lives, each unfathomable to the other. Between Ellen and Kate is a chunk of anger and
misunderstanding that turns under pressure into a surprising respect and love.
"...a common problem between daughters"
"Ellen has never really valued her mother," Franklin comments, "and I
think this is a common problem between daughters and mothers of this generation. Until she
goes back home, Ellen just sees her mother as shallow but she doesn’t realize all the
intelligence, wisdom, responsibility and care that are just under the surface. And what
Kate teaches Ellen is that the most important thing is to really be alive in this world
and heal yourself and your relationships while you can."