×

Life in a Day

An emotional and problematically assembled feature-length compilation.

With:
(English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Indonesian/Balinese, Hindi, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Bengali, Creole, Vietnamese, Quechua, German, Masai, Dutch, Catalan, Tajik, Pushto, Umbundu dialogue)

YouTube’s worldwide invitation for contributors to submit personal diary footage on a single day — July 24, 2010 — results in an emotional and problematically assembled feature-length compilation, “Life in a Day.” Though some will view the film, overseen by director Kevin Macdonald and shepherded by Tony and Ridley Scott, as honoring YouTube’s global-village possibilities and democratic ideals, others will criticize the pic as violating YouTube principles of unedited, personal videos that resist feature movie rules. NatGeo is an ideal domestic distrib, sure to nab curious auds during the pic’s July rollout following a YouTube online preem.

In truth, the most important player in the project is editor Joe Walker, who has melded more than 4,500 hours of footage into a surprisingly coherent whole. Pic is structured into two conceptual forms, one wrapped inside the other: Clips are assembled in a chronological form, from post-midnight darkness to daytime and into evening, while certain detectable themes (including the things people love and fear the most) are edited into mini-montages that serve either as bridges between sections or as discrete sections themselves.

Both forms are held together, to a distressingly excessive degree, by a score composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and Matthew Herbert that mixes minimalist cliches with songs and cues that sound close to lullabies. Besides intruding on the individual clips, the music tends to overwhelm and homogenize the clips — arguably the opposite of the ideal, unfettered YouTube viewing experience.

The film revels in diurnal pleasures — slowly rising from bed, making breakfast, prepping for the day, working, taking midday naps, domestic squabbling and cuddling, partying and dating (though there’s not a moment of sex in this family-targeted doc). Most daring, for squeamish Western auds at least, are moments of cattle slaughter, while the most exhilarating clip is unquestionably one of a female skydiver in freefall, as shot by her partner via a fish-eye lens camera.

Emotions run thick through “Life in a Day,” with each viewer sure to relate closely to some captured detail (whether it’s domestic clutter or a son’s first shave, among countless others) or stated remark (a husband’s fear of his wife’s recurring cancer, for example, is certain to stir many). The problem with this patchwork quilt is that such moments come and go, almost arbitrarily, while Macdonald’s aesthetic backs away from drawing out any big ideas just as it retreats from a more radical collage approach.

Auds willing to lose themselves in a kind of Internet-style armchair adventure will doubtless be swept up, though more critical eyes will note that the Western world is considerably on greater view in this assemblage than contributions from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Whether this is due to the quality of clips supplied, the filmmakers’ cultural choices and biases, or a combination of these, all will be fodder for conversation. For the record, 21 languages are spoken onscreen.

Popular on Variety

Life in a Day

U.K.

Production: A National Geographic Films release of a YouTube/Ridley Scott & Tony Scott presentation of a Scott Free Films production. Produced by Liza Marshall. Executive producers, Scott, Scott. Co-producers, Jack Arbuthnott, Tim Partridge. Directed by Kevin Macdonald, YouTube contributors.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, B&W, DV), YouTube contributors; editor, Joe Walker; music, Harry Gregson-Williams, Matthew Herbert; music supervisor, John Boughtwood; sound (stereo), Glenn Freemantle; sound designer, Tom Sayers; supervising sound editors, Hugo Adams, Freemantle, Ben Barker, Niv Adiri, Mark Heslop; sound re-recording mixers, Ian Tapp, Andrew Caller; visual effects supervisor, Stefan Drury; line producer, Ann Lynch; associate producer, Caroline Gerard; Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 24, 2011. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Panorama.) Running time: 95 MIN.

Cast: (English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Indonesian/Balinese, Hindi, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Bengali, Creole, Vietnamese, Quechua, German, Masai, Dutch, Catalan, Tajik, Pushto, Umbundu dialogue)

More Scene

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Cara Delevingne Talks Immigration, Taylor Swift's Battle With Scooter Braun

    Cara Delevingne, whose faerie character in “Carnival Row” finds herself washed ashore as a refugee in a foreign land, said she was immediately drawn by the show’s fantastical take on issues of immigration and assimilation. “It’s a cause that I have been involved in for a long time,” Delevingne told Variety at the premiere of [...]

  • John Travolta, Fred Durst. John Travolta,

    John Travolta Recalls Fans Breaking Into His House: 'I Was Scared the First Time'

    Nobody can accuse John Travolta of not being gracious to his fans, whether it’s an autograph, a selfie or, you know, a home invasion or two. “I’ve only had two people that actually invaded my house,” Travolta told Variety at the premiere of “The Fanatic” at the Egyptian Theater on Thursday night. “They were just [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • 50 Cent Power S6 Premiere

    50 Cent, Snoop Dogg & Trey Songz 'Power' Up New York City for Massive Season 6 Premiere

    “Power” is entering its final season, but you would never know if you walked by Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Tuesday night. Starz pulled out all the stops for its ratings powerhouse “Power,” throwing a massive premiere event, complete with a full-length concert at Madison Square Garden from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and a [...]

  • Diane Warren'Late Night' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Songs of Hope to Honor Diane Warren, Marc Shaiman, Boi-1da, More at 15th Annual Event

    Cancer research and treatment center City of Hope today announced the initial lineup of presenters and honorees who will celebrate the song and songwriter at its 15th annual Songs of Hope event. Among the music and entertainment industry VIPs in attendance will be veteran executive and producer Clive Davis, producer Boi-1da (Drake, Kendrick Lamar), award-winning [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content