"LIFE IN A DAY" sounds like one of those movies that is all fancy concept without anything to keep eyes on the screen beyond the initial gimmick. But in fact, it's the opposite. The concept takes a back seat to the beautiful pastiche that makes up the film.
To celebrate YouTube's fifth birthday, director Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland") solicited clips from users asking them to document a day - July 24, 2010 - in their lives. He received 80,000 submissions making up 4,500 hours of footage from 140 countries. The videos range from expert to amateur, but MacDonald and editor Joe Walker edited the footage into 90 minutes of "story."
"Life in a Day" has no fabricated narrative but the film is organized thematically - people wake up, they brush their teeth, eat breakfast, and so on. In one clip, a woman says to the camera, "What makes me excited about today is this." She holds up a positive pregnancy test. "And a little terrified," she adds.
In the next clip, a baby giraffe is born and licked clean by its mother.
These easy characterizations create a pseudo-storyline that can seem sentimental at times. Some clips are preceded by a questioner holding up a piece of cardboard with queries such as "What are you most afraid of?" followed by the ensuing answers, which feel a little forced. But they also provide a sustained framework for the disparate videos.
Not every moment of "Life in a Day" is easy to watch. In one scene, a cow is slaughtered. In another, a weary woman attached to a colostomy bag implores her crying son that he needs to be good today.
Other moments are touching, like when a gay man calls his grandmother to tell her that his "friend" is actually his boyfriend. Or when a photojournalist from Kabul uses his time to relay to the world that, despite reports to the contrary, Afghanistan is actually a nice place to live.
But what makes "Life in a Day" so compelling is how completely ordinary it is. There are no YouTube antics, no one is putting on a show. It's simply a collection of how people decided to spend one July day. Sure, there are dull sections where nothing of note seems to be happening, but isn't that what life is?
Produced by Liza Marshall, directed by Kevin MacDonald, music by Harry Gregson-Williams and Matthew Herbert, distributed by YouTube, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, with National Geographic Entertainment.