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What do you get when you ask the people of the world to chronicle a single day in their lives? You get 80,000 submissions, 4500 hours of footage, from 192 countries. Kevin Macdonald has taken this raw material, all shot on July 24, 2010, and created a 90-minute paean to what it means to be human in the world today. Written by
Morning, July 24, 2010. "It'll all end well," a man says to his younger son, who is currently throwing a tantrum. "It'll all end well," he reassures the boy. What will end well? This situation? This day? This life?
As Life in a Day progresses, the viewer travels through the lives on many, literally living vicariously through others. This amazing documentary, produced by the Scott Brothers (one of which is the famous Ridley Scott) and directed by Kevin MacDonald, travels all over the world on one all too regular day: July 24, 2010. Starting in the morning, a time filled with a happiness and renewal, and ending in the evening, a time of reconciling and sadness, Life in a Day profiles things that should be commonplace. The best part: these things are certainly not commonplace. The Earth is a beautiful place. Our lives are great. Why not display them on film? And that is just the point.
Like any great documentary, Life in a Day is a poignant film. But unlike many great documentaries, it follows a subject that should not be poignant. If you have ever seen Amelie, you know the great beginning sequence. An unseen narrator shows us two glasses dancing on a table, a firefly dashing across a yellow-lighted French street, and a man erasing the name of a dead friend out of his address book. Imagine a movie like this entire opening sequence and you've got Life in a Day. Beautiful imagery, such as a teenage boy shaving for the first time, is common throughout the entire film. One shot especially, that of a skydiver falling to Earth, is probably the best part of the entire film. In a scene reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi, a woman tumbles through the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere. It is quiet for a brief minute, and then, as the clouds engulf her, the noise of the people seeps in. The couple laughs together, sharing a time like no other together.
And yet, there are some truly disturbing scenes. At a Love Parade, multiple people are shown getting trampled to death. A few rush over to help the fallen victims, but many carry on, screaming to their heart's content. One part that people will surely have a reaction to is the slaughterhouse scene. Fair warning: a cow is shot in the head twice. The cow is later decapitated graphically. As these scenes show, sometimes life isn't always great. The images may be ugly and bleak, but they are always beautiful.
Life in a Day is a beautiful time capsule of people in the new millennium. Simply put, it's a wonderful portrait of people who do regular things. On a more complex level, it's a documentary about how lives are constantly changing. Every action we do changes the next action that is going to happen. Time is important. It's also shaping these actions. What's going to happen tomorrow? After all, as Scarlett O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow is a new day."
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