“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” also exists as a short, but the we’re reviewing is the feature film that came out in 2012. It’s by writer/director Don Hertzfeldt, and it primarily features stick figures doing odd things with strange sound effects or beautiful music in the background. It’s mixed anthology/narrative nature makes it a good choice for post-trip contemplation. This review will contain spoilers, especially concerning the ending, so be warned.
The film starts out with several short anecdotes featuring the main character, Bill. At this point, you may be thinking to yourself that this is a simple comedy film with stick figures. You would be wrong. There are comedic moments at times, but it gets very dark and sad at others. If you’re just here to have a good time, this will not be the film for you.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Bill’s got some mental and physical issues. He struggles a lot with his memory, and spends a lot of time going to the doctor and hospital. It’s never quite clear what sort of disease or illness it is, but perhaps this allows the audience to fill in the blanks with their own personal experience with someone like this. Perhaps, if you’ve had a father who died from brain cancer, and saw him slowly become someone else, you might imagine Bill has brain cancer. Obviously, you can begin to see how this may not be the happiest of films.
At one point, a superimposed text tells us “Everything will be okay”. We’d like to remind you that everything will be okay, and if it’s not, well that’s fine too.
The story sometimes derails into theories of space and time, and the idea that all your cells are constantly dying and replacing themselves, making the you of the past a different you than the you of the present. We’ve discussed this before, and perhaps the reason these ideas are included in this silly film about Bill and his fear of fruit being touched by genitals is because all these little things add up into an acceptance of death. If this film has one central purpose, it’s to tell people to stop wasting their time worrying about death. This is a very easy lesson for someone who’s coming down from a psychedelic substance to understand, hence the reason we’re including this film on our site.
One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is its exploration on how memories may influence our sense of self, and what comfort we have in our memories. Bill begins to confabulate new memories as his old ones fade, for the comfort of having a history. Amnesia can be a very frightening and disorienting experience. But for most people, there’s a slow loss of memories over time, in which they replace their foggy recollections with affirming confabulations. You don’t need all your memories to be you. Don’t be sad for not remembering the loved ones you spent time with. The time you spent together is still there in the entirety of existence. Learn to let go, and the fact that you are an inseparable part of the eternal universe will be true whether you remember it or not.
Bill’s final lesson turns from sad, to happy, to truly horrifying. Bill, having suffered through his memory loss, his final meeting with his father, and a relentless urge to drive, has finally settled under the shade of a nice tree. As he lays down, and looks up at the swaying leaves above him, he says to himself “It’s such a beautiful day”.
At that point, the screen goes dark, and it’s implied Bill has died. Most people would be sad at this point. Maybe you cried, maybe you didn’t, but the death of the protagonist would always count as a “sad” ending.
So that’s when Don’s magic truly begins. He voices these protests within the movie. “Bill can’t die!” And so, he changes the ending. Bill lives. Not only does he live, he can’t die. Bill lives for centuries, finding love, having children, traveling, learning doing anything. And it’s wonderful, for probably a long time.
But Bill can’t die. So all his many loves die. All his children die. Eventually, all of humanity dies. And Bill continues on. He wanders the Earth once all live has gone. Imagine the horror of being all alone on the planet for perhaps thousands of years, once everyone you’ve ever known or loved has died, and there is no way to end it.
Sure, he gets visited by aliens. They worship him as a god. But poor Bill is still trapped in this same body, unable to join them on their adventures of beings of light, stuck on this dying planet. Eventually the sun burns the Earth out from under his feet, and Bill is left floating in space for an eternity as all the stars die around him. And still he can’t die. It’s a terrifying ending when you think about it. And then the movie ends.
Bill’s ultimate lesson is this: It’d be a terrible shame to be stuck in the same body for all of eternity. Death is sad, yes, but living forever is worse.
As small children, perhaps the idea of Earth being swallowed by the sun in a few billion years felt scary. Or perhaps you get uneasy the knowledge that all life in the universe will eventually end as its matter becomes so distant we all freeze. But what scares us, is that it doesn’t end. The universe will always exist in one manner or another, and whether there is “life” there to experience it, we, and everything else in it, will continue on in this way. And if we were conscious, from a universal level? What would we do then, at that lonely end that never came? Perhaps we would dream…