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Another Day of Life

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Another Day of Life Movie Poster Image
Surreal violence, downbeat tone in animated war drama.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 85 minutes

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes of courage and integrity are clear as Kapuscinski and fellow reporters/freedom fighters risk everything to free their country and do their jobs. Movie's sympathies are clearly on side of regular people who hope for freedom, independence, and a country in which everyone can live in peace. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kapuscinski is depicted as a man who's incredibly brave, if perhaps foolhardy, and determined to follow up on a story despite all advice not to. Carlota is a rare example of a female warrior; she's also courageous, implacable. Farrusco is a fascinating figure -- a hero to many, but Kapuscinski sees how war corrupts the principles he began fighting with.

Violence

Intense violence; some animated imagery intercut with real-life footage of violence, which adds a disturbing realism. A character talks about finding corpses of men, women, children on the road, spraying them with gas, setting them on fire; viewers see vintage black-and-white photo of real body swollen with decomposition, then engulfed in flames. Other imagery: children marching, pointing rifles; woman running down road with child in her arms, screaming for help (main characters pass her by, thinking it may be a trap); an (animated) character's head exploding as he's shot from close range. Numerous shots of dead bodies; faces are generally obscured, focus isn't on their wounds. A grasshopper appears to be roasted alive in a fire in brief live-action scene. 

Sex

Two brief live-action shots show a woman's rear end wiggling while she dances in shiny red skintight leggings. Another scene shows an animated woman whose breasts are visible. 

Language

Language is often harsh, used by characters who are angry: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "motherf----r," "ass," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ryszard and many other characters smoke cigarettes, often prominently. Scenes show smoke rising in the air in a picturesque way. Scenes take place at bars; in two scenes, characters drink until they slur their words and seem sloppy. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Another Day of Life is an intense movie about journalists who report on the 1970s civil war in Angola. It's too violent and mature for younger viewers. The movie mixes animated storytelling, live-action interviews with the real survivors of this true story (which is adapted from the same-named novel by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski), and vintage footage shot by Kapuscinski and his friends. Main characters are in constant danger, with many characters predicting their violent deaths; they're held at gunpoint and almost murdered. There are dead bodies (both animated and live action), including a corpse swollen with decomposition and then set on fire, and viewers hear about and see child soldiers with guns. In a live-action scene, a grasshopper is burned alive in a fire. Many characters, including central ones, smoke theatrically in animated scenes, with smoke vining through the air; they also drink in bars and get sloppy. Language isn't continual but can be harsh and angry when it appears: "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "ass," and more. Sexual content/nudity is minor: a woman shaking her rear end in tight pants and a brief glimpse of animated breasts. Characters are brave (if perhaps foolhardy?) and show great integrity and courage, including a young female warrior who's called a general's "best soldier." Viewers will come away with a better understanding of the Angola conflict and why it erupted. 

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What's the story?

Based on the same-named novel by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, ANOTHER DAY OF LIFE dives into Angola in the 1970s, when colonial Portugal pulled out of its longtime occupation of the African country and Angola drifted into a civil war. Cutting between realistic and striking animation, interviews with the real survivors, and period documentary footage shot by Kapuscinski, the movie follows Kapuscinski as he drives into the heart of the conflict to interview legendary rebel fighter Farrusco. 

Is it any good?

War is hell, but this stylish tour through battle-scarred Angola makes the conflict beautiful -- and heartrending, particularly when real people show up amid animated retellings of their story. At times, Kapuscinski's chronicle drifts into fevered fantasies: The sky turns red, and a deadly wind blows away civilian bodies like they're matchsticks, while foliage and ruins from an ominously empty landscape whirl and twirl as if a hurricane were lifting it into the air. But each time the animation fades away and real survivors of the Angolan conflict -- now elderly men -- relate their memories of Kapuscinski's anecdotes, we're reminded anew that what the men lived through was no fairy tale, even while the beautiful visuals may briefly convince us otherwise. 

Another Day of Life doesn't resolve as satisfyingly as a fairy tale might, either. Even Kapuscinski's quest to meet Farrusco is no simple hero's journey: Obstacles arrive unpredictably and are resolved confusingly and frequently off-screen. And even when Kapuscinski makes it through, it's often unclear exactly what's just happened. This, too, is as real as the war that Kapuscinski wrote about. There are few heroes in this story, only people struggling to survive and prevail. But in illuminating a lesser-known (at least in the West) piece of African history, Another Day of Life shows us what was lost when the United States and USSR used Angola, as Kapuscinski puts it, as a "Cold War chess piece" -- and what intrepid reporters like Kapuscinski went through to tell the story. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why war is a common setting for movies. What's interesting or dramatic about war? Why do you think people who live through wars feel compelled to tell stories about it? 

  • Is animation an effective way to tell Kapuscinski's story? How would Another Day of Life have been different if it was all live action? What types of scenes were in the movie that would have been difficult or impossible to show using real actors and sets? 

  • How do the characters in Another Day of Life show courage and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

  • How accurate do you think the film is compared to what actually happened? Why might filmmakers sometimes change the details of fact-based stories?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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