OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

63 Up

The groundbreaking series reaches a new level of maturity.

Michael Apted’s Up series, which returns every seven years to interview the same group of subjects and see how life is going, long ago established itself as a humanist treasure.

Poster for the anthropological documentary 63 UpNow back to look at its diverse group of Brits at age 63, the project is settling into a grandfatherly comfort. Gone are the days when the course of someone’s life was likely to shift in completely unpredictable ways, or when a bold new ambition might lead to unexpected success. Though fortunes can, of course, still shift, the friends we’ve made here are mostly settled, leading lives they understand surrounded by people they love. Now, inevitably, health and mortality become the main source of drama.

As has become its pattern, the pic moves methodically through stand-alone chapters, each summing up the progress of one participant with little or no reference to others. A wonderful exception here is a segment on Paul and Symon, who were interviewed together in 7 Up while living in a charity home. The two remained in touch over the years, even after Paul moved to Australia and spent a period living nomadically there with his wife. Now we watch Symon and his wife visit Paul’s family in Australia for the first time. It’s a happy occasion, but it also supplies some of the film’s most poignant moments, as the two men reflect on the lack of confidence they’ve both endured over the years and relate their troubled childhoods to their attitudes as fathers and grandfathers.

Brexit and other world events come up occasionally in these interviews, but not with the kind of polarizing tone we’re used to from the news. Tony, the wannabe horse jockey who instead became a cabbie and prospered, reports that “I was a Leaver,” but admits to having second thoughts now; Peter, who dropped out of the series for a long spell after being criticized for anti-Thatcher comments, predictably takes a different stance. Nick, the scientist who has long lived in the U.S., gets asked about Donald Trump. “Oh, gosh” is his eloquent reply.

Self-referentiality plays an increasing role, as, in between good-natured talk of their ambivalence at being dragged into the spotlight every seven years, Apted makes a point of asking each interviewee about the series’ initial premise – that a person’s character is mostly set by the age of 7. Most seem to agree that there’s a fair bit of truth in the idea; shown footage of themselves at 7 or 14 or 21, they see the people they are today.

– John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

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