Movie Review - Life in a Day

Kevin Macdonald (left) and Joe Walker,
behind the scenes on "Life in a Day"
Ridley and Tony Scott in association with National Geographic and YouTube requested that people make videos of themselves, documenting what they did on one particular day, and then upload those videos to YouTube. That one particular day was Saturday, July 24, 2010. Over 80,000 videos were uploaded from 192 countries comprising about 4,500 hours of footage.

Kevin Macdonald, acting as director, and editor Joe Walker took all that footage and whittled it down to a hour-and-a-half montage and string of juxtapositions. Essentially, Macdonald and Walker arranged the footage in chronological order of when it was shot. All the footage that was shot in the morning obviously comes first. All the footage that was shot at night comes at the end. We watch simply as the day progresses and as the hand on the clock goes around a full, 360 degrees.

You'd think all that material would consist of a lot of random things that when put together would constitute the height of incoherence, but what the filmmakers have noticed is the many similarities between people, not only in the United States but all across the globe. Macdonald starts off with the mundane like a series of clips of people yawning, brushing their teeth and cooking breakfast.

The only interesting thing about it is so many people thought to shoot the same thing, often from the same angle. For example, there are a series of clips of people's feet as they get out of bed. It means that a ton of people all thought to shoot their feet getting out of bed, all in the same way, a closeup with the camera on the ground. Whether or not it was planned is unsure. Some might say it was coincidence, but, as the movie goes on, and we see more and more of these coincidences, it might make some feel that we as a people are not so disparate.

Out of the mundane, Macdonald will occasionally drop in something shocking like video that several people made of themselves using the toilet, often time with perspectives of the waste going into the bowl. Watching someone have a bowel movement is shocking and malapropos. Some things though are endearing or poignant like one clip of a dad showing his 15-year-old, blonde-haired son how to shave, as well as another father with his son honoring his deceased wife.

The quality of the videos as one would expect are pretty amateurish. Some are of a better quality. One or two seem professionally done. The vast majority, I would even argue, are beautiful. A sequence that merely observes children in various activities like play or work or simply lounging is somewhat sublime.

After about the first half-hour, the filmmakers start to organize the clips under categories. Those categories are questions that the filmmakers prompted ahead of time. The first question is "What is in your pocket or handbag?" This allows for some bizarre responses, but some responses pitted back-to-back offer a contrast of opposing socioeconomic situations.

Another question is "What do you love?" This allows for some touching and sometimes hilarious responses, including people expressing their love of animals, a wedding vow renewal between an elderly couple and a young man coming out as gay to his grandma. One final questions asks, "What do you fear?" This opens the door conversely for homophobia as well as other heartbreaking ideas like one facing his or her own mortality.

What this documentary does mostly is give the audience peaks into other cultures. At times, it does so in amusing ways. At times, it's in straight-forward ways, but, what it also does is give people a peak into themselves. This may be the most self-reflexive film ever made. The image we see of ourselves, the mirror that the filmmakers hold up here, will mainly make you smile. Still, a chunk of it is haunting.

The depiction of the last Love Parade in Germany is one such haunting incident. This is perhaps the depths that humanity dives. This movie though does show the heights that humanity can climb, sometimes literally through a video of a guy doing parkour.

Many of it is solitary demonstrations of people. It's apparent that people filmed a lot of themselves. Some seemingly recorded themselves just once. Others recorded themselves multiple times. A small few recorded themselves all day long. While most only make one appearance, that small few make repeat occurrences.

One repeat is a Korean man named Okhwan Yoon. He was a cyclist who visited about as many countries as this documentary did. A professional filmmaker began following Yoon and decided to submit the footage that was consequently shot on July 24th to Macdonald and his team. Yoon's musings about the significance of insects like flies ties into this movie's theme of homogeneity the world over.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, language and a sexual reference.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.

*Probably the only movie made this year by an Oscar-winning director that's available for free. To watch the entire film, go to


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