By: Addison Wylie
One Life feels like it should be apart of the DisneyNature collection. It’s similar to Earth because the film is showcasing different animal and insect families, it’s similar to Oceans because of the rapid fire pacing of each family’s story, and it’s similar to last year’s African Cats because of how the script threads in little tales. However, it’s not until we see an attack scene where an ostrich is brutally taken down by a trio of hungry cheetahs where we realize that this documentary is unlike Disney’s endeavours.
It’s then we realize that even though One Life is very interesting and amusing, filmmakers Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes don’t want to sugarcoat the subject matter.
Now, let me be clear. Movie goers won’t be seeing a Faces of Death-esque show. When these attacks happen, we don’t see any gore (only a little blood) and the final moments of a maimed animal is taken care of off screen or with a fade-to-black transition.
I appreciated Gunton and Holmes’ willingness to show these unfortunate situations and not skim over these lifestyles. It may upset pre-schoolers but adolescent and adult audiences will take a lot out of the documentary. They may even catch themselves with their mouths open in awe and fascination. I sure caught myself a few times.
Each wildlife vignette has a different location providing a variety of gorgeous cinematography. Each landscape is caught marvellously and easily sets the stage for the forthcoming action.
Audiences will wonder how cinematographer Hugh Miller got the shots he did. When he’s not utilizing slow pans across landscapes and capturing perfectly positioned animals, he’s getting a variety of close-up shots of these creatures in their habitats. He isn’t disturbing them and the sequences don’t look staged. Even though multiple takes would’ve been a must since he’s filming an animal do the same thing over and over again with different angles, that level of authenticity hasn’t left. We really feel like we have eyes in all the right spots and genuinely feel like, and pardon the pun, flies-on-the-wall.
One Life also makes use of slow-motion to it’s full effect. As with Miller’s work, we never feel a sense of fabrication behind David Freeman’s editing. All these shots have been captured successfully by Miller and by slowing down the clips, we see just how these slices of life can be seen in an artistic light. One moment it’s simplistic beauty and the next, you’ll be amazed as you watch a chameleon nail unsuspecting praying mantises. Never has nature looked so beautiful yet so bad ass.
There’s really nothing bad to say about this prime documentary. Movie goers who are expecting tales about how species meet and create a family may be taken back at the amount of hunting and food scavenging content there is. But, those audience members will be fulfilled come the final stretch where we see a very cutely constructed story about two birds in love and a courageous yet hilarious tale of a beetle fighting to find a true love at the top of a ginormous tree. Think Scott Pilgrim vs. the World if the cast were made out of beetles. These stories may sound like a load of fabricated bunk but they aren’t. They feel very real and it doesn’t feel like fiction.
Nature enthusiasts may not find anything new here but to wide-eyed sponges, there’s a lot here to marvel at.
With its short turnaround and a blu-ray/DVD release set for the beginning of April, I hope movie goers will go out of their way to see One Life on the big screen while they have the chance. It’s most definitely worth it.