It's Such a Beautiful Day (film)
|It's Such a Beautiful Day|
Theatrical poster for the film
|Directed by||Don Hertzfeldt|
|Produced by||Don Hertzfeldt|
|Written by||Don Hertzfeldt|
|Edited by||Brian Hamblin|
|Distributed by||Cinemad Presents|
It's Such a Beautiful Day is an experimental black comedy-drama animated film directed, written, animated, and produced by Don Hertzfeldt as his first feature film. The film is divided into three chapters and follows the story of a stick-figure man named Bill, who struggles with his failing memory and absurdist visions, among other symptoms of an unknown neurological illness, implied to be brain cancer. The film employs both offbeat humor and serious philosophical musings. It received critical acclaim and won numerous awards.
Bill is a young man whose daily routines, perceptions, and dreams are illustrated onscreen through multiple split-screen windows, which are in turn narrated (by Don Hertzfeldt). The Narrator subtly explains that Bill is suffering from a problematic memory disorder, which interferes with his seemingly mundane life. Bill often has meetings with his unnamed ex-girlfriend, and had been recently referred to a clinic for his condition. On a visit to the clinic, Bill's doctor recommends that Bill have a new batch of medication, after his recent treatment didn't yield any positive results. It is unknown if Bill did take the new medication, as he undergoes a hallucinatory experience the next morning and then stays awake the following night. The next day Bill suffers more hallucinations, seeing monsters and ripping his own head open.
Bill is then shown lying down in an alleyway. To recuperate, Bill's mother comes to take care of him, though he attacks her when she comes at him with a pair of scissors. Bill is then taken to hospital, where his health fluctuates, confusing his doctor. Bill's doctor concludes that Bill is not going to die, wherein his mother removes all the flowers from the hospital room and returning a casket meant for him. Bill then goes back to work.
The film flashes back to Bill's childhood, with the Narrator explaining the death of Bill's half-brother Randall. Randall was in the "special" class at school, having aluminium hook arms and "a brain as misshapen as his legs". On a school trip at the seaside, Randall chased a gull and disappeared into the sea. After Randall's death, Bill's mother soon became fiercely protective of Bill and rarely left home. The Narrator then explains the details of Bill's stepfather leaving the house for good and Bill's mother rocking on the spot in front of the door afterwards. The Narrator also details the history of Bill's family, with many of them suffering from various diseases, such as polio and yellow fever. Many of Bill's family members were apparently killed by trains, and one—his great-great-uncle—was outcast from town and "died in the field one summer morning while dreaming of the moon."
A few days after leaving the hospital, Bill receives a call telling him that his mother had died; she was hit by a train after skipping her medication and launching into a fit of senile hysterics. After the funeral, Bill goes through his mother's old belongings, finding a physician's note strongly recommending that she never have a child.
Bill sees his doctor once again, who unexpectedly finds nothing wrong with him. On his way to lunch, Bill suffers a seizure and collapses to the ground. During the seizure, various memories of his infancy and childhood flash before him, including an encounter with someone on a beach. Bill is again taken to hospital, where he is frequently visited by his ex-girlfriend. Bill's new doctor questions him, revealing that Bill cannot remember basic information about his life, such as his address or what month it is. He also cannot remember the name of his ex-girlfriend. Bill has surgery, after which he is asked various questions and shown photographs that appear irregular or nonsensical.
Bill's doctor explains to his ex-girlfriend that Bill is having trouble understanding past-tense and present-tense, and it is implied that many of Bill's childhood memories and family history could have been confabulated. Bill is allowed to go home for family care, but when he arrives home, no one is there to take care of him. Bill starts to repeat and then forget various tasks, such as buying food and taking walks, and does not seem to understand that he is ill. Bill's doctor explains that he doesn't have long to live.
Bill's outlook on life starkly changes; he marvels at the night sky and notices details of insignificant objects that amaze him. This change is complemented by a change in the film's animation: full-color photography is merged into the scenery. Bill rents a car and drives into the night, blindly following his instincts without knowing where he will end up. Arriving at a house, the Narrator reveals that it is in fact Bill's childhood home. Bill's uncle, who may have followed him, gives him an address to where Bill can find his real father, who Bill has not seen since childhood.
Going to a nursing home, Bill finds his father chair bound; neither of them remember who the other is or why they are there. When Bill leaves, he tells his father that he is forgiven, causing Bill's father to cry. The Narrator explains that they will never see each other again. Bill continues driving on, more frenzied now, and stops in a forest. He lies down underneath a tree, and the Narrator states, "It's such a beautiful day." The screen cuts to black.
The Narrator, breaking character, realizes that Bill may die there and stubbornly refuses to believe that he will. Bill is then shown walking away from the forest. The Narrator explains that Bill has become immortal and travels the world, learning everything there is to know, yet death remains a complete mystery to him. Bill outlives the human race, surpassing the next inhabitants of the Earth who revere him as a god. He continues living until the Earth is destroyed by the Sun, continuing even when that has gone as well. Floating in space, Bill observes the stars going out, until the screen cuts to black.
The three chapters of the film were originally produced and released independently as animated short films, captured entirely on 35mm film with in-camera special effects.
The first installment, Everything Will Be OK, was released in 2006 and won the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize for Short Film. The second installment, I Am So Proud of You was released in 2008. The third and final chapter of the trilogy, It's Such a Beautiful Day, shares the same name as the feature-length movie and was released in 2011 to similar acclaim, including the Audience Award from the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
In 2015, Hertzfeldt began a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for a Blu-Ray release consisting of both the feature version of It's Such a Beautiful Day, as well as his 2015 short, World of Tomorrow. By the end of the campaign, backers had raised more than seven times the needed amount.
It's Such a Beautiful Day received wide acclaim from film critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 100% based on 29 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A collection of three shorts by Don Hertzfeldt, It's Such a Beautiful Day is an impossibly dense and affecting piece of animated art." The film holds a score of 90/100 on Metacritic, based on 7 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
Of the trilogy, Steven Pate of The Chicagoist wrote, "There is a moment in each installment of Don Hertzfeldt's masterful trilogy of animated shorts where you feel something in your chest. It's an unmistakably cardiac event, the kind that great art can elicit when something profound and undeniably true is conveyed about the human condition. That's when you say to yourself: are stick figures supposed to make me feel this way? In the hands of a master, yes. And Hertzfeldt is to stick figures what Franz Liszt was to planks of ebony and ivory and what Ted Williams was to a stick of white ash: someone so transcendentally expert that to describe what they do in literal terms is borderline demeaning."
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named it their runner-up for Best Animated Feature Film of the year, behind Frankenweenie. Indiewire ranked Hertzfeldt the 9th best Film Director of the Year in its annual poll (tied with Wes Anderson), and film critics for The A.V. Club ranked the film #8 on their list of the Best Films of 2012. Slate Magazine named It's Such a Beautiful Day their pick for Best Animated Feature Film of 2012.
In the United Kingdom, the film was ranked #3 on Time Out London's list of the 10 Best Films of 2013, and #4 on The London Film Review's list of the same. In 2014, Time Out ranked It's Such a Beautiful Day #16 on their list of the "100 Best Animated Movies Ever Made." Critic Tom Huddleston described it as "one of the great outsider artworks of the modern era, at once sympathetic and shocking, beautiful and horrifying, angry and hilarious, uplifting and almost unbearably sad."
In 2016, The Film Stage critics ranked the film #1 on their list of the "Best Animated Films of the 21st Century (So Far)."  That same year, three critics polled by BBC as part of an international poll ranked It's Such a Beautiful Day as one of the greatest films since 2000.
- Wickman, Forrest. "The Best Animated Film of the Year". Slate.com. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
- Merry, Stephanie (14 November 2014). "Watch online: 'The Girl,' 'Amor Cronico' and 'It's Such a Beautiful Day'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
- Chavez, Danette. "Get Involved, Internet: Fund a Blu-ray release of Don Hertzfeldt's World Of Tomorrow". AVClub. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
- "It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- "It's Such a Beautiful Day Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- Pate, Steven (28 February 2012). "Don Hertzfeldt at the Music Box". Chicagoist. Archived from the original on 19 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
- Huddleston, Tom (23 June 2015). "The 100 best animated movies: the list". Time Out. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
- "The 50 Best Animated Films of the 21st Century Thus Far".
- "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films: Who voted?". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2017.