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Review: Life In A Day

Life in a Day is a new and kind-of original film, brought to us by A-list producers Ridley and Tony Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald (best known for ‘The last King of Scotland.’) It was also created in partnership with YouTube.

If like me, you use Youtube for the occasional copyright invasion and don’t really dip your toes the so-called vlogosphere, then you might have missed the publicity surrounding this film and its ambitions.

I’ll fill you in: the film’s makers solicited video footage from anyone with a high-end handheld and a willingness and/or narcissistic desire to share the qualities and banalities of their day-to-day. All entries had to be shot on July 24th 2010 and uploaded to Youtube. The resulting film is a 90 minute clip-show type amalgamation of these 80,000 submissions, totalling about 4,500 hours and from 192 countries. It’s a sort of snapshot view of, as suggested by the title, the world (but mostly America) in a day.

This isn’t an especially new idea, this populist anthropology come sociology. You didn’t grow up in the middle-class belt of the 21st century if you haven’t already seen one of those coffee-table-book compilations of photographs taken all over the world with twee sentiments like “we are all the same” superimposed over pictures of people herding goats or riding elephants. I generally find these books about as palatable as being punched in a soft spot, and I approached the film with a similar kind of cynicism. Here are my notes:

  • People waking up. There’s a surprise. People wake up.
  • People brushing their teeth. Shocking revelation: not everyone brushes with a circular motion making sure to touch their gums. They’re going to be regretting that we return for ‘Life in Another Day.’
  • This guy’s shaving, and I get it: when you look at shaving, like close up, it all looks pretty brutal. The film makers didn’t need to turn the volume way up on this so that I feel like I’m part of his face, did they?
  • Motion sickness: this is why you don’t play home-videos on a cinema screen.
  • Pretty music.
  • Cancer victim.
  • Widow. Widow’s child. Shrine to mother.
  • People have really messy houses. You’d think they’d clean them up if they knew they were doing this. Maybe they did and these are their ‘cleaner’ rooms. Maybe they usually live in abject filth. Maybe only filthy people vlog.
  • First-World issues/Third-World problem dichotomy being played pretty heavy handily.

And then I stopped taking notes because after about 45 minutes the film started to make sense to me. Initially there’s way too much going on and way too little actually be said, but you get used to this pace, it starts to make sense. Little is said over the course of a day, little is achieved, it’s all routine and cosmic imbalances, chance, horror and etcetera; and there’s a strange beauty in that. I found myself, in spite of myself, thinking “wow, this all really happened in a day and was captured; was sorted and arranged; wow.”

The film calls itself a documentary but it really isn’t, not in a traditional sense. It didn’t procure me of any particular knowledge but it did sort of bring me up to speed on YouTube scene. It’s a medium that has a lot to offer and this is one of the rare instances where it realises its potential. I recommend you go and see this film, don’t bust your guts to get there, but go and see it, maybe alone, with a glass or two of wine and let it wash over you. It’ll be a pretty unique experience.

Jack Jelbart