We’ve all heard the phrase “less is more” – and its something that I constantly praise, because being a huge supporter of independent film, it is difficult to not love the idea of someone constructing something out of nearly nothing, free from the confines of mainstream Hollywood. Yet there is no filmmaker working today that proves that less is more than Don Hertzfeldt, one of the most brilliant and audacious minds in animation today, and someone of who I proudly call myself a fan.
Hertzfeldt is someone known mainly for his work in short animation (his films Rejected and World of Tomorrow are amongst the greatest pieces of short animation ever produced), but in 2012 he did something truly amazing – he created a film based out of three previously-released shorts, which then formed a coherent story. That film is It’s Such a Beautiful Day, composed of the short films Everything Will Be OK, I Am So Proud of You and It’s Such a Beautiful Day (the last one obviously giving the title to the feature film). I can honestly say It’s Such a Beautiful Day is one of the most poignant and beautiful films I have ever seen, and one of the most heartbreakingly sad cinematic experiences I’ve ever had – and it is animated used stick figures, which just speaks to the brilliance of Hertzfeldt as an animator and filmmaker.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day is about Bill, a middle-aged man who lives alone. At the outset of the film, he appears to be relatively unremarkable – he recently broke up with his girlfriend, and is living by himself in his tranquil but lonely existence. He starts to have very strange visions and very soon finds his way to the doctor – its revealed that Bill has a terminal illness that will result in his death very soon – and struggling to come to terms with the fact that he is dying, Bill does the only thing he knows how to do – he continues to live for as long as he possibly can. He doesn’t do anything exciting – there are no bucket lists or dreams that he sets out to achieve – just existing in the world.
Let me be perfectly frank It’s Such a Beautiful Day does the seemingly impossible – it tells one of the most emotionally difficult stories possible in a way that very few films are able to do. I am not taking part in the tendency many have to give merit to this film because of its simple but deep and profound execution – It’s Such a Beautiful Day can easily stand alongside live-action feature films and still be seen as far more incredible in how it handles its issues. What makes It’s Such a Beautiful Day so utterly brilliant is not the way that it told its story in terms of the animation – that is a major part of it, but what I took away from It’s Such a Beautiful Day is how unbelievably touching the story was – sad, heartbreaking and often very hopeful.
If you don’t believe me that stick figures can tell a story far more poignant and meaningful than any “proper” film, I challenge you to actually watch this film. You might laugh at its nihilistic production values and how very simplistic it is – but dive a bit deeper into this story, and you’ll find a profound philosophical theme at the heart of It’s Such a Beautiful Day. It is a film with a concept way bigger than its execution, and in a world where so many films are the other way around, a big execution trying to hide a lacking story, it is not only refreshing to see a film like It’s Such a Beautiful Day come out, but rather its essential to our sanity that we get something this meaningful and important – and Hertzfeldt is a damn hero and genius for telling this story.
You need to watch It’s Such a Beautiful Day – regardless of your age, gender, nationality or anything else, this is a film that unites us. It is simple and very straightforward in its story, but it has a message that can unite all of us – we are one humanity, and we may be different, we are all still humans, with real emotions. It’s Such a Beautiful Day is a very small film about a very small man undergoing a huge problem – and whether or not one can relate to the story, we can all relate to the feeling of incomparable humanity Hertzfeldt puts forward in It’s Such a Beautiful Day.
The final fifteen minutes of It’s Such a Beautiful Day are perhaps the most awe-inspired I have ever been. I was weeping from sadness and crying in joy, and was left completely shaken by the ending. It isn’t fair that such a small and simple film can be this moving. If you haven’t seen this film, please do – it is on a completely different level to everything else and is one of the greatest pieces of art ever produced. Don Hertzfeldt is an absolute genius and we should appreciate his work far more than we do, and not having been disappointed with his work yet, I plan to be a fan of the great filmmaker for many more years, just as long as he keeps it up with this kind of profound brilliance.