A documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world that serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on the 24th of July, 2010.
The concept of Life in a Day is heartening but it comes with certain caveats. The above-the-title involvement of corporate giants YouTube and LG, director Kevin McDonald’s history with Shell Oil and the ultra-commercial influence of executive producer Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder) warrants the question: Is Life in a Day an experiment in global sociology or multinational commercialism?
The filmmakers launched a broad global search for participants, inviting anyone with a recording device to interpret with creativity, a number of from existential questions such as 'What scares you?" and 'What do you love the most?". All of the material had to come from one day – 24 July, 2010. The exercise became a life-altering project for McDonald and his editor Joe Walker, as they spent seven months melding 81,000 clips and 4,500 hours of footage into an emotional, humanistic representation of the planet Earth.
The fruit of their labours is a wonderful film that unites the world through a single handheld camera lens. It highlights innate and ordinary 'goodness’, and finds a common thread in unlikely situations. As individuals, we face challenges: the Australian man who weeps at the compassion shown to him by the nursing staff after his open-heart surgery; the cancer-riddled American mother, whose young son screams for attention knowing his mother may die soon; the African woman who kneels before her husband daily, because 'it is tradition"; the South American boy who spit-shines shoes on a busy sidewalk for a few cents a day. McDonald’s film shows we experience life as a singular species; the landscapes of our lives differ, but our interaction with those worlds does not. We recognise the familiarity of our existence in others.
McDonald also chides our flaws, outing us as abusers of our home – several sequences capture the horrific means by which we exploit animals. (Timely scenes of abattoir slayings will be unwatchable for many.) Also, be warned, soon-to-be parents: the birthing process has never been so intimately captured. Life isn’t always pretty. In fact, it is more often very sad, and for some in the film, achingly pointless. (The final scenes, of a perfectly ordinary – or ordinarily perfect – young woman pining for a life in which she means something to anyone are heartbreaking.)
Life in a Day is often cut to a pulsing and/or drippy soundtrack, with many of the visual flourishes far too reminiscent of the over-produced sheen synonymous with Tony Scott’s work. But it’s best to simply ignore its corporate branding and accept the spirit of deeper understanding and celebration of the project’s intention.