Life in a Day might be the ultimate cinematic example of the old saying that we have more in common as humans than differences. Compiled from thousands of hours of YouTube footage that people were asked to record of their own lives on Saturday, July 24, 2010, Kevin Macdonald's documentary creates a portrait of the mundane, moving, and profound events experienced around the globe on that date.
As we learn in the movie's opening minutes, everybody gets up the same way: our feet hit the floor, we relieve ourselves, we eat breakfast, we clean our teeth, etc., etc., etc. But even in these daily rituals performed by people all over the globe, there are life-defining moments for some; for instance, we watch a 15-year-old shaving his face for the first time. This opening section establishes Macdonald's artful style -- the film isn't built in sequences, but more like movements in a piece of classical music. There's a rhythm to the editing, just as there's a rhythm to our daily lives, yet every once in a while we're surprised by something beautiful, sad, scary, or awe-inspiring.
The wash of images offers up occasionally pointed, though never judgmental, commentary. For example, images of lunch being consumed in various places around the globe are interrupted by frank coverage of an animal being slaughtered in a factory. Also, footage of soldiers stationed overseas comes very close to images of a little boy playing war with his toys.
At some point, Life in a Day may begin to seem pointless or silly. How many times can you watch the same people do the same things? But that's when you remember that all of these things are happening on the same day, and that while our day-to-day lives don't change very much at all, there is always the possibility of something transpiring -- a birth, a death, a wedding, a riot -- that will change the course of our lives forever. The movie does a fairly remarkable job of capturing the rhythms of human life. For a documentary that consists primarily of images revealing the minutiae of daily existence, Life in a Day builds to a heartwarming profundity.