Last year, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, and Kevin Macdonald invited amateur filmmakers from around the world to document the same day—July 24th—whether anything special was happening in their lives or not. Life In A Day distills the thousands of hours of footage into 90 minutes of people sleeping, waking, eating, peeing, washing, crying, loving, dying, and living. Sometimes the movie strings together short clips of similar activities around the world, showing what we have in common. Sometimes it shows the participants answering questions about their possessions and fears, illustrating how different we all are. And sometimes Life In A Day sticks with one of its subjects for longer than a brief shot or two, as when the movie follows a Korean who’s bicycling around the globe, or a Chicagoan who plans to ask his best female friend to be his girlfriend, or a recovering cancer patient and her rambunctious young son.
Frankly, Life In A Day could’ve used more of those vignettes. The broader the movie gets, the more banal it becomes—like YouTube: The Movie, or like one of those “everything’s connected” indies, but in doc form. (The drippy, string-laden soundtrack doesn’t help.) But Macdonald also brings in moments of real emotional power and subtle dignity, which justifies the whole endeavor. The biggest “event” covered in the movie is the deadly crowd-crush at Germany’s Love Parade dance-music festival, but those few minutes of footage aren’t as affecting as the sequence of a young Japanese boy and his father going through their morning ritual, which includes paying their respects to the boy’s dead mother. If nothing else, Life In A Day serves as a fine time capsule, recording some of what life was like on Earth in 2010. In fact, it’d be great if someone would repeat the experiment every 10 years ago, to track what changes. Most likely, the particulars would be different, but the basics very much the same.