Life in a Day

13 Aug

Title: Life in a Day
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Kevin Macdonald
Writer: –
Starring: 

MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, disturbing violent images, language and a sexual reference
Runtime: 
90 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
8.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 
79%

 

To say I was intrigued to see what sort of results Life in a Day, an experiment in filmmaking to say the least, would produce would be sort of an understatement. Since the inception of this idea started coming up online I was deeply interested about the sort of end product that could spawn from it. You see, last year the production company spearheaded by the great Ridley Scott sent out a call to arms to all of us, asking if we could film a video of our daily activities in the day of July 24, whatever we did, or a video of us answering some provided questions that would help guide the different videos into some sort of cohesive plane, and then submit those videos to a YouTube account from where the group of filmmakers would get an hour and a half worth of footage to make a documentary about, well, life in a day.

Now, the interesting thing isn’t the fact that this happened. I mean, in the digital YouTube-addicted age we live in getting massive crowds to film videos and submit them online for consideration was the easy part, no matter how ambitious it may have sounded. The real achievement of Life in a Day is the fact that the result is not only entirely worth watching, but it’s also something that at times achieves some pretty remarkable levels of greatness. And that’s because this isn’t just clips of YouTube videos meshed together to form some final product, this is a film directed by Kevin Macdonald, the guy who directed The Last King of Scotland, but who’s also an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker for One Day in September and who also did the great docu Touching the Void. And having Mr. Macdonald direct this was a very smart move, because he, alongside with two co-directors and editor Joe Walker (who worked on Steve McQueen’s Hunger and his upcoming Shame), made a film out of over 80’000 clips from 140 countries, and the film never once feels like just a collection of clips, but instead it always feels impressively cohesive and consistent, even if it’s never really telling a single particular story.

The first thing Life in a Day does to achieve some sort of connective tissue between the clips is arrange them in a chronological fashion, with the film starting in those dark hours before the sun rises and ending as the day draws to a close, and getting in shots of people having breakfast, lunch, dinner as the film moves along to establish some sort of time structure. Those quick-cutting shots are super effective in getting things moving and getting us into a time and place, and they are good set-ups for the other sequences, which are obviously longer and thus help to slow the pace down and not make the film be some sort of hyperactive exercise in editing. And that’s another thing that’s fantastically well executed in Life in a Day, the whole pacing of the scenes, it’s got a terrific rhythm to all of its sequences that really make the whole hour and a half go by in a breeze.

Getting 80’000 videos to the 500 actually used, over 4’500 hours to the 90 minutes shown, this is something pretty remarkable no matter how you look at it, and the fact that Mr. Macdonald and his team did that so well and gave us such a terrific film is really something to admire. The little things it shows really get some great responses from us as an audience, a guy fainting during his wife’s c-section, a teenager shaving for the first time, a couple getting married by an Elvis impersonator, a Korean cycling across the world, an American about to ask his best friend of ages to be his girlfriend, a skydiver, everything shown here illustrating the lives of many during one day in their lives is extraordinary and really speak volumes about just how much we can do with our lives, corny as that may sound. And yeah, some cynical-minded people will be quick to point out that some of this stuff may be staged, maybe not all of this great stuff happened in a regular day in a random fashion, but I don’t care, I’m an optimistic guy, and even moreso after watching this film.

The message the longer sequences here give is something pretty amazing, they show us just how similar our lives can be, no matter who we are or where we are, and at the same time it’s an obvious celebration of our differences. And if you’re one of those cynics I mentioned in the paragraph aboive and have your eyes rolled right now about how oh-so-life-is-always-great this all sounds, then that’s all good and fair, because Life in a Day really is a very positive approach of filmmaking, even though there actually are a few moments that are tinged in sadness. And maybe there will be some people that won’t appreciate what this film achieves, I’m just not one of them, I fully loved the results of this experiment in filmmaking, from thousands of clips it created a cohesive piece that became something meaningful, something that could elicit true emotions. And even though there probably is a lot more to life in a day than what is shown here, it does a fantastic job at showing a tremendously well-edited look at the life we have and, more importantly, it shows us that no matter how shitty things sometimes may seem, we really have a special thing going on here, all of us.

Grade: A-

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