It's Such a Beautiful Day

It's Such a Beautiful Day ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I wrote about the first of the three segments, EVERYTHING WILL BE OK, here

And I felt just as much, if not more this time around. The three short films that compose IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY are so resoundingly dense, powerful, hilariously absurd, and cripplingly existential that they culminate in something totally unprecedented. Don Hertzfeldt sculpted this masterpiece over gap increments of several years, the parts being released individually in 2006, 2008, and finally in 2011. Though they build onto each other, they retain a distinctness, with each serving to accomplish a different purpose. It's pretty difficult to watch it all in one go without pausing between the parts to catch your breath - by design, the finished work is quite heavy and momentous.

So, you ask, what does it all mean? Well, IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY is a complex, mixed-media style narrative that juxtaposes the mental deterioration of everyman Bill, with the banalities of everyday life, as well as the persistent rote-ness that permeates all of metaphysics and the universe, too. This is massive, but Hertzfeldt is so deft in how he advances the story, pushing forward the illness in Bill's head while never assigning a name to it, describing in vivid, heart-wrenching detail his childhood memories and family life, and giving credence to so many offhand, seemingly inconsequential things Bill notices or remembers. It's overwhelmingly easy to get swept up in the depression of this work, until you realize the film has loftier intentions than to make you feel really, horribly bad about the crux of living. It revels in the simple beauty of the minutiae that we gloss over each day: the little details that characterize an individual, the small factors that contribute to that tiny, nearly imperceptible glow of uniqueness that everyone possesses.

"after realizing he wasn't going to die, Bill's mother had to have his casket returned at great expense and inconvenince."

I undervalued Chapter 2 so much the first time around. It was my favorite on rewatch. Everything about I AM SO PROUD OF YOU, from the information that Bill's mother would practice her handwriting just to give him the best-looking notes with his lunch, or that she was the victim both of mental illness and domestic abuse really reverberated, and felt like it came from a personal place. Chapter 2, despite all the deeply emotional, specific things it covers, is also the funniest, in its recollection of the older members of Bill's family, and their zaniness. Tinges of sadness and tinges of joy collide with each other so frequently throughout IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY in these parts that I sort of always wanted to shed a tear while simultaneously smiling.

"his girlfriend's been visiting more lately, and they talk for hours about current events. Sometimes, they eat ice cream bars."

The humor here is definitely a dark, sardonic, sarcastic sort, that's also hugely aware. Hertzfeldt demonstrates a mastery of a writing style obsessed with increasingly bizarre, 'throwaway' moments that sound so trite and irrelevant when they're isolated, but take on a greater significance as the representation of life in its purest form. This is at first a horrifying and saddening consideration, of course, until you think about it more and it becomes weirdly beautiful, in a 'pathetically average' sort of way. When I first watched this it felt too readily like an insurmountable pang of dread, which is certainly an element of the greater picture, but not the whole. Though IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY is grounded immensely in the paranoias of a post-ironic world, its intentions are earnest: arguing for enlightenment in a world blanketed by technology and apathy, virtual communication instead of the real-world interactions that have grown hued as vaguely surreal or antiquated, steeped in the same tired monotony that's been fundamental to adult life as long as anyone alive now can attest to.

The visual trickery and mechanisms employed to show the breakdown of Bill's head from the inside make up the "plot" of this film, if you can say as much - they're harrowing and frightening, with the added meta-fear of forcing you to think about the act of watching it as it happens. These flashes and occurrences are genuinely scary especially because despite seeming like the 'obvious' symptoms of a brain tumor, Bill's actual predicament is never explicitly stated in medical terms, with the highly important implication that he got this way as a result of passively existing in the world for his entire life; drifting through the years, going through the motions, and then suddenly stumbling into the grand realization of the existential weight of the universe on his way back from work - slowly at first, and then expanding, enshrouding, capturing, and dominating over his entire mind.

"as he walks down the thoroughfare, he sees a woman's tennis shoe filled with leaves...and it fills him with inexplicable sadness.

That Bill's plight leads him to the poignant, revelatory understanding that's assembled for our entertainment/education in this film is arguably its most tragic detail.

"and it was though he had been sleepwalking for God knows how long, and something has violently shaken him awake."

Though we're given the affecting epithet that upon Bill figuring out the existential realities of the world, he becomes able to see beyond the mundanity of normalcy, (expressed in the form of actual film cameras and photography of people in a crowd, scaling brick walls, swaying trees, passerby on bikes, walking, etc) the really fatal issue is that it's all ephemeral: a symptomatic revelation borne out of mind decaying conditions. Hertzfeldt bravely suggests that all adults live within the fog of the first two chapters that Bill has at last, messily ruptured out of; at the same time, the realization that those other people all persist stably and healthily echoes, too. So, are we to assume that enlightenment in this dreary world is always so hard to reach and absolute? Is it always the case, as it is with Bill, that to truly transcend and break out of the numbing, grinding gears, we must lose our faculties altogether?

"he wanted to stop people in the street and say, 'isn't this amazing'? 'Isn't this amazing'?

We don't ever get a definitive answer to those questions, because no such thing exists. The last four minutes are absolutely stunning, in how the individual, person-sized Bill that we had gotten to know ostensibly dies, only for him to be enacted as a symbolic beacon for the entire human race. By far the most hopefully optimistic, bluntly delivered, genuine feelings of inspiration in all of IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY, the ending scene details the rest of the course of human history. The entire beyond is blissfully fulfilling, expansive, chaotic, and peaceful: thousands of centuries stacked onto each other, until eventually all of life is wiped out, the universe none the wiser towards all the bustling bodies that had impacted its tilt. To realize one's own fragility, to level with the forces that tether you to the ground, to see beyond the blandness of daily routines, and to comprehend the beauty in the quirks and twitches of uniqueness in all the things around us. These are the lessons we are meant to learn.

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