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Movies Review

Life in a Day

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Life in a Day
Released on Friday, Jun 17 2011

Life in a Day is nothing short of ambitious. Last summer, director Kevin Macdonald and producer Ridley Scott asked the worldwide public to shoot personal videos on one specific day, July 24, 2010. Around 81,000 clips totalling 4,500 hours were uploaded onto YouTube, which were then compressed into a 90-minute picture. The idea behind the documentary was to produce a film that accurately conveyed what it was like to live on that day - like a time capsule, if you will.

The impressive thing about the film is that it's a truly global project. Raw everyday footage was shot from all over the world, from Dubai to Nepal to America. These clips, some trimmed to a split second, are expertly spliced together. One second, a person wakes up to the grating sound of his alarm; the next, a homeless man in a much poorer part of the world wakes up on the street. It's a somewhat fascinating outlook. Even though we all go about life in different ways, we're all similar people - we wake up, we eat, we work, we interact with others - and much of it is presented in an easy-to-follow rough chronological order, starting with the full moon at midnight.

Sadly, the novelty wears thin over time and the film ends up feeling like an elongated montage that overstays its welcome. Life in a Day struggles to remain engaging when it moves at its usual brisk pace, which is slightly ironic given that the scenes reflect our own lives. Empathising with random people takes more than a few seconds of screen time, which is why the longer and more focused clips turn out to be the most effective. A graduate who recently secured a job meets up with his father to enjoy a burger at the same place like old times; a gay man reveals to his grandmother over the phone his true orientation; a young boy is being filmed by his father as he shines shoes for a living. These videos give a much clearer indication of what it's like to live in 2010 than a bunch of short clips regurgitated as one, and they work on a more emotional level.

Contributors were also encouraged to answer a few questions such as what they love most and what's in their pocket, but the responses are often fairly predictable and don't vary too much - it's no surprise when people say that they love themselves, their family, or God. The topic of fears evokes more interesting reactions, though. Answers are more varied, from spiders and wasps to cancer and death, but there are also some more thought-provoking ones. One girl's main worry is the possibility that God isn't real, while another person in Afghanistan reveals that he's always nervous when he leaves his home each morning.

The final scene sees a woman speaking to the camera and reflecting on the past 24 hours, moments before the start of the next day. She comments that it's just a day like any other. Though it's not a consistently enjoyable watching experience, the film does demonstrate that everyday life is not like in the movies. Most of us don't lead extraordinary lives, and Life in a Day successfully shows that.

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