After rewatching 'Life in a Day,' I can safely say that as of right now it is my favorite movie of the year. No film has ever captured humanity like this one has. It's a simple premise with deeply profound results.
Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, directed by Kevin MacDonald ('State of Play') 'Life in a Day' is the chronicling of one day in the history of the world. People all across the world were asked to record their lives on July 24, 2010. MacDonald, along with a team of editors, set to work sifting through the footage and pulling out videos and images that would work best in creating a narrative about the world we live in.
Starting from the time people wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed, the film records everything. It’s like a living time capsule of one day in Earth’s history, and to think that what’s shown in the movie doesn’t even account for one percent of what happened that day is truly mind-boggling.
People from all over the globe let us into their lives. They tell us their fears; they enlighten us with what they love. They let us in on their deepest secrets. We share happiness and sadness with them. Joy and despair. Comfort and grief.
There are so many magical moments that it’s impossible to name them all. We get to see a veteran’s wife videochat with her husband who's away fighting in the Middle East. We watch as a single dad in Asia teaches his child how to pray to his dead mother’s shrine. We witness a baby giraffe being born, as well as a woman who just found out she was pregnant. There’s seemingly no end to the number of moving scenes in this movie.
This amalgamation of seemingly random clips is brilliantly put together by Kevin MacDonald. It really tells a story of the world. We see marriages, the beginnings of life, the hardships of poverty, and the excesses of being wealthy. The movie doesn’t shy away from the negative stuff either. A man walks into a convenience store and steals some food. A crowded parade in Europe turns deadly. A cow is killed in a slaughter house. Some of these things are hard to watch, but they happen every day on Earth and therefore must be documented.
The truth is people are interesting. Reality is not only stranger than fiction, it's also more fascinating. You want to see the next person and the challenges they're going through. You want to share in their enjoyment and comfort them in their misery.
'Life in a Day' is one of a kind. It's a story about our world and us as a people. It opens our eyes to just how big and diverse our planet really is. It's hard to believe all that happened in just one day. Sometimes we become so self-centered we can only think about what’s happening around us at any given moment. This movie shows us that there's something bigger out there. Something more than just, us. This is about all of us. A human collective sharing our lives and experiencing the human condition together.
'Life in a Day' is a beautiful, heartfelt film that will remain with you forever. Here's hoping they take the leftover footage they still have and create a series of these. Or maybe do a different day altogether. It's just amazing to watch our planet in action.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Life in a Day' was released on Blu-ray by Virgil Films with help from National Geographic and YouTube. The movie has been pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and is coded for Region A use.
This is a tricky release to quantify with a review. Nailing down the quality of the video here is quite tough. Yes, the movie is presented in 1080p, but with so many different types of video sources the video quality is widely varied.
This is to be expected when you're dealing with so many different formats and recording equipment. Some of the images, like the goat herders, looks professionally done, while other clips look like they were done with webcams or simple digital cameras. That's the nature of this documentary. Not everything was filmed with professional equipment.
There are numerous scenes that feature blocking, banding, aliasing, and all types of artifacts. Are they because the transfer went horribly wrong? No, I don't think so. It's simply because of the inferior recording equipment people are using to document their lives. Simple consumer cameras is what has been used the most here. Softness, sketchy contrast, and crushing round out the problems that you will notice constantly. Aspect ratios change constantly depending on their source. Frames will switch from 1.78:1 to 1.33:1 routinely.
With all that said, there's nothing here that should turn you off from viewing 'Life in a Day.' It's simply a product of its source, which is consumer-grade home videos. They aren't going to be the prettiest visuals, but they do a fantastic job at telling the world's story.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is surprisingly on point. It does feel like most of the sound effects were added in post-production instead of being taken straight from the videos that were sent in. Still, the way everything is mixed together is quite an achievement given the limited video quality they were left to work with.
Thunder storms offer a good amount of LFE, as does the eerie music that plays throughout the sound stage during the parade. Considering limited audio recording, voices sound surprisingly clear. There's a few times where muffled recordings may make you strain to hear what's being said, but for the most part voices come across intelligibly.
Rears are fairly active during crowded market scenes. Notice the ambient sound as a tiny boy travels to the city to shine shoes for money, or as a young girl climbs to the top of a human pyramid in Spain. Capping off the wonderful sound associated with this release is life-affirming original music provided by composers Harry Gregson-Williams and Matthew Herbert. I was certainly surprised at the force and vitality of this sound mix considering its origins.
There are two must-listen audio commentaries included on this set. The first commentary comes from director Kevin MacDonald who, you can tell, has a deep love for this project. MacDonald talks about the daunting task of making the movie, partnering with YouTube to make accepting the submissions possible, and his relationships with some of the people featured in the movie.
The second commentary belongs to editor Joe Walker who still, even after the movie is done, seems rather gob-struck at the amount of work it took to sift through all the footage. He talks about creating a narrative, and how the movie actually resembles the time of the day passing from early morning, to dawn, to evening, to night. Another great commentary for anyone who is remotely interested in learning the finer aspects of film editing.
There have been a lot of good films this year, but 'Life in a Day' exists on a different plane. It's a movie that attempts to take in the scope of Earth's abundance in a very short 90 minutes and somehow succeeds. It's an inspiring, thought-provoking experience that is sure to make you – at least for a few seconds – realize that this world is bigger than just you and me. It's about everyone, working together. It's the best film of the year. Very highly recommended.