It’s Such a Beautiful Day
Director: Don Hertzfeldt
I imagine the most universal feeling is the fear of death. Or at the very least, the uneasiness that accompanies the uncertainty of what waits us all after death. It is the most human of all emotions. The great novelist Don DeLillo, a constant philosopher of death, once said, “We have these deep, terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn’t they paralyze us?” Another great artist, coincidentally also named Don, has asked these very same questions.
In Don Herzfeldt’s masterpiece, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, a wistful, horribly depressing, and downright hilarious look is taken at death and its effect on people. We all walk around with the shadow of the afterlife hanging over our heads. Hertzfeldt understands this and communicates it by creating the most average of Average Joe characters, a guy named Bill, who is presented with an existential crisis created by his dire medical condition. Bill is a stand-in for every thinking human being who walked this Earth. Death faces him and Bill faces back. The horrid and imminent shroud of the end that looms over everyone like some ancient, dormant volcano is frightening and should be met with nothing but fear, right? Hertzfeldt feels differently. He takes the age-old cliché “carpe diem” and crafts what is possibly the smartest and most wonderfully touching animated film I’ve ever seen. Bill, the main character, begins as hardly a character at all. He is mostly inactive, going about life like a dust mote in a sun beam. As Bill’s life situation worsens, he not only learns more about himself but also about the world around him.
To Bill, everything becomes beautiful. Watching this film is such a joy, because Hertzfeldt clearly feels what Bill is feeling, a tear-inducing happiness with the world, and wants to tell everyone he sees. It is deeply personal, and I can feel that connection. When approaching such vast and solemn concepts as the meaning of life and death, one could certainly delve into self seriousness and stuffy explanations of things filled with meaningless allusions to French philosophers. Hertzfeldt instead crafts an almost lighthearted, yet altogether painful, portrayal of mankind’s deepest questions.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day is the furthest thing from boring and obtuse. It is simple but not simplistic. Hilarious yet unabashedly saddening. It is hopeful but not naive. It is beautiful. And I cannot recommend watching it enough.