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Originally published July 28, 2011 at 3:02 PM | Page modified July 28, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Movie review

'Life in a Day': a dazzling kaleidoscope of YouTube moments

A movie review of "Life in a Day," Kevin Macdonald's dazzling kaleidoscopic film that was drawn from thousands of YouTube videos shot in dozens of countries on the same day: July 24, 2010.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3.5 stars

'Life in a Day,' a documentary directed by Kevin Macdonald. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent images, language and a sexual reference. Meridian.

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In Thornton Wilder's classic play "Our Town," the recently deceased Emily decides to revisit the most important day of her life. But she's given a warning: "Choose the least important day of your life. It will be important enough."

That moment kept running through my mind as I watched Kevin Macdonald's "Life in a Day," which captures hundreds of unimportant moments that take on an unexpected importance just by being included in this kaleidoscopic movie.

Macdonald and his editor, Joe Walker, drew from thousands of YouTube videos that were shot in dozens of countries on the same day: July 24, 2010.

Some tell a story, some create a mood, some emphasize two essential questions: "What do you love?" and "What do you fear?" (The long list for the latter includes zombies, snakes and ghosts.)

The opening images celebrate beginnings, including a mother with a newborn baby. We see the workday start in different households that are united by morning rituals. Alarms go off, a rooster crows, teeth are brushed; gradually the effort to get up becomes an epic movement.

As the sun rises, music and dance become an almost necessary (and often joyful) part of food preparation. A child has a tantrum; a mother nags. A tissue sticks relentlessly, comically, to a man's shoe.

A vulnerable hospital patient, recovering from surgery, is touched that he's being treated so well. An Indian gardener working in Dubai proclaims himself "very happy" even though he sends most of his paycheck back home.

"I love my life; I love my Lord," proclaims one man. "I actually love my refrigerator," says another. Nervously coming out to his grandmother, a gay man explains that he loves his boyfriend: "It's not a disease."

The cameras track hula-hoopers, sky divers, swimmers and news photographers, and check up on politics in Korea and Afghanistan. References to "Star Wars" suggest just how far American culture has penetrated.

What could have been a gimmick turns out to be philosophical and heartfelt. The last sequence, an odd mixture of apology, regret and hope, is especially touching.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

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