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Life in One Day - Cinequest 2010

This is my second time attending Cinequest, because it's hard finding a huge chunk of time to spend at the movies (that I could justify). But I went today, and ended the day with a Dutch movie called Life in One Day. And ended up crying alone in my car on the way home.

So, this isn't a review of sorts... reviews aren't my thing. I will say that, as the movie really spoke to me, I thought it was very good, and from what I know about filmmaking itself (which isn't a lot, but I know the basics), it was well-made too. As usual, I will talk about the movie as a jumping off point for my personal reflections.

In the movie, a person's entire life spans one day... you're born early in the morning (in time for your grandpa to see you before he dies, having lived his own life the previous day), and you die at the end of it, and you live your entire life in between. Because your life span is so short, all of life's meaningful experiences happen only once, and thus hold more meaning. Sex, childbirth, love... they happen once, and can never happen again. Hell, to them, is an eternal afterlife where everything CAN be repeated, over and over, rendering them thus meaningless and empty, completely devoid of any special significance (so, parallel to our real world of empty sex and empty promises). Benny and Gini are two teens who meet and fall in love, and decide that they want to keep loving each other forever, so they commit murder in order to go to hell together... only, they end up losing each other and what follows is a painful stretch of time where they learn the hard way that this was NOT what they thought it would be, and that being in a world where you can love each other forever does not necessarily mean that you will.

So, I knew that there would be a lot of sex in the movie ahead of time, but I did NOT know that this movie would break my heart. From the beginning, it grabbed my heart in my chest and gripped it so tightly that I couldn't breathe.

At first, it was the set-up of their world that was making my chest ache. Your entire life in one day? Maybe they're okay with it because they don't know anything different, but for me, that idea alone almost brought me to tears. One day? One day is not enough. I thought about my baby girl, smiling and laughing, and I wanted to cry because one day with her is NOT enough. I thought about the person I love and how we've been together over a decade, and I know that one day is not enough. I thought about EVERYTHING going on in my life right now, and everything that has already happened in my life, from the big things like my job and my friends to the little things like reading my favorite book, or eating the best cupcake I've ever had, or the feel of water swirling around my hair when I go swimming and let my ponytail out... and I just couldn't imagine having to sacrifice any of that if my life could only span one day. I already feel the constant ticking of my life's clock NOW, and it terrifies me.

Being a parent makes me more aware of my own mortality than ever - I think about death far more now than I did before I had Jolie, and I think it's because I'm not just a young'un anymore, and because now, I am watching someone else's life progress in front of my eyes. I'm already feeling the "my baby's growing up so fast!" blues, and Jolie's only 7 months old. The scene where Benny's mother drops him off at school (he looks about kindergarten age) was another one that brought me near tears. She tells him, "This might be the only time you'll hear this, because by the time I see you again, you'll be grown: work hard in school and remember that mom loves you, okay? Now let me look at you and remember how you look right now."

That's got to be every parent's saddest moment, right? The indelible moment of separation? The knowledge that your child is growing up? I was fighting back tears already, and we were only, what, 15 minutes into the movie? I knew this was going to be a tough one - I already get weepy walking around the baby section of Target and seeing the newborn and 0-3 month sized clothes because Jolie's too big for them now.

From there we move on to the idyllic beginnings of love. And I am such a sucker for a "we are meant for each other and we'll be in love forever" type of story, especially in this case, where forever really isn't much. That stage of desperate longing, where everything the other person is and does is beautiful and perfect, and where the world suddenly feels brand new because you're experiencing it together, and where you really do feel like love could last forever because YOU feel like you could live forever as long as you have that person's love to carry you through... the movie captured this beautifully, and so effectively. These sequences brought up all of my memories of those same feelings: the excitement when someone notices you, the nervous flush when you realize that he desires YOU, the anticipation and heart-thudding when you realize something BIG (like a first kiss) is about to happen. My heart pounded its own irregular rhythm as Benny and Gini fell in love.

And then the pain... so far, in my life, the worst pain I've ever felt was the pain of heartbreak. Nothing has ever cut me deeper to the core than the pain of being in love. It's literally a physical pain for me, a clenching in my chest, a deep ache that makes my breathing ragged. When Benny and Gini are apart in hell and suffering the loneliness and loss and heartbreak (represented by split-screen sequences), I found myself wrapping my arms around my body, trying to hold myself together to keep from falling apart as they do in the movie. To love someone and not be able to be with him feels like breaking into a million pieces. What I literally feel is a shattering inside, tiny shards of glass cutting me up everywhere they touch my insides as they fall. Remember that scene in Amelie where she melts into a sad puddle of water after watching her love walk away? It's like that, but worse.

I admit it, I tend to hover on the "oversensitive" end of the spectrum. And anything having to do with love makes me a little overdramatic. But I can't help it - I'm a deeply feeling person, and I can't stand to watch someone else in pain, because I feel it too. I have always loved with all of my heart, and if I am hurt, then I feel that hurt with all of my heart as well. And this movie really reached in and took hold of my heart. I don't know what's worse - to know nothing but love for only a short period of time, or to know love AND to know pain for an eternity.

The urge to cry was much stronger after the movie was over - I no longer had to concentrate, and since I saw this one all by myself, I didn't have anyone to distract me with conversation, so my lip quivered and I blinked back tears as I walked down the street to my car, and my voice shook as I called home, because I really needed to hear the voice of the person I love. (And I really wanted to hug my baby when I got home, but she's at her grandma's tonight.)

How's THAT for powerful filmmaking? Life in One Day is not one I will soon forget. I don't remember the last time I was so deeply affected by a movie. Don't take life for granted; whether you have one day or all eternity, life is what you make of it, so live it meaningfully.