The concept of Life in a Day might at first be seen a self-aggrandising act on behalf of YouTube, and maybe it is. But this documentary also happens to be a profoundly affecting insight into the lives of hundreds of people the world over.
The idea is this: YouTube asked people to send in videos of their thoughts and/or activities from the day of 24 July 2010. They received 4500 hours or so of footage and then managed to squeeze the best and most illuminating videos into a 95 minute documentary feature. The film begins just after midnight and basically works through footage chronologically (but of course pretending that there is no such thing as time zones.)
The footage ranges from less than a second to three or four minutes long. We get the full variety, from random images to details of peoples’ life stories. At first, I was concerned the film wouldn’t be able to hold my attention for the duration, but after some pretty speedy montages, the film slows down for some extended segments, though these never outstay their welcome. By this time, I was completely sold on the project.
As if to duplicate society’s need for instantaneous, shorter interactions, Life in a Day plays out like an impatient version of one of the Seven Up films – more participants, less screen time – and by golly the end result is nigh euphoric. I’ve never felt quite so many emotions at the same time, particularly during a documentary. The footage varies enormously – we have an ‘army wife’ having a Skype conversation with her husband who’s currently serving overseas, a young boy who works all day shining shoes, a man guiding his son through his first shave, a birth by c-section and a man explaining that the thing he loves most in his life is his cat. There are some people that the film visits more than once, including a Korean man who’s nine years into his round the world bicycle trip, and the Love Parade stampede which happened to occur on that very day on Earth.
The film is accompanied by fitting musical scores from Harry Gregson-Williams and Matthew Herbert, which enables it to reach a stunning climax that is at once saddening, thrilling, euphoric and terrifying.
Life in a Day deliberately makes no judgment on any of the people or acts displayed on screen. This means that any reactions you have to such footage says more about the yourself than those depicted, and this is part of the film’s genius. There’s very little in the way of obvious juxtaposition and the film represents no bias that I could discern (except maybe ensuring that the majority of the footage chosen was high quality, which is appreciated on the big screen anyway.)
I appreciate that YouTube is often (correctly, many might say) viewed as simply a platform for narcissism, but the segments in Life in a Day have been selected and edited in such a brilliant manner that the same can’t be said for the film itself. This is an extraordinary experience and a definite must-see.Rating: