Review of the documentary:
28 Up is the brainchild of expert documentarian, Michael Apted. In 1963, Apted produced a film for the BBC entitled, 7 Up, in which he rounded up 14 seven year-old British children from different social classes and asked them questions about who they were and what they wanted to be. Seven years later, he talked to the same 14 people to see how their lives were progressing. The director repeated the process when the group reached twenty-one, and, believe it or not, was able to corral nearly every one of them again in 1984 for 28 Up.
Each person's story begins his or her introduction as a school child. From there, we get to see their routes to adulthood. Apted uses all four segments to paint a full picture of each life. What is so fascinating is how honest these people are about what went right and what went wrong in their lives, and it's amazing how little--at least, at the core--many of them have changed over the years. As one of these woman mentions, "Your overall character is established by age seven. We're the same people now as we were then."
By Chris Hicks, Deseret News movie critic.
As cinematic social documentation, Michael Apted's "Up" series is unparalleled. The director Michael Apted is almost as famous as the 7 Up series - he's been a part of the project since it's inception in 1964. He's better known as a popular Hollywood director with films such as "Gorillas in the Mist", "Coal Miner's Daughter", "Nell" and "Gorky Park" to his credit. Right now he's working on the newest James Bond movie "The World Is Not Enough" scheduled to be released in North American theatres in mid November. As a film maker he's worked on both documentary and drama projects giving him a balance that few directors have.
Michael Apted returns to England every seven years to film the next installment of the 7Up series. It's a project that he considers his 'life's work'. "It doesn't seem to get less interesting as they get older," he says, but it is getting increasingly difficult to convince each individual to participate every seven years. "I think they think it's a pretty serious invasion and what's horrible for them about it is they get stuck with all the historical stuff, the silly things they said when they were seven or 14." Viewers hope that both Michael and his subjects return every seven years - the popularity of the 7 Up series hasn't wavered since the first episode aired over three decades ago.
It began with a British television special, "7 Up," which observed a group of disparate English 7-year-olds at play and in interviews, with the promise to follow them through the year 2000 (or perhaps beyond). Apted has kept his promise so far, checking in on these people every seven years, with "14 Up," "21 Up," "28 Up" and, in 1992, "35 Up." While a few of the subjects (or their spouses) have declined to be interviewed for certain segments, most have allowed Apted to invade their privacy for follow-up shows. The result is a fascinating look at the dreams of children, the aspirations of youths and the goals they may or may not have achieved as adults. In "35 Up," which incorporates footage from all the previous documentaries, we begin with insecure Paul, who has a modest success story with his wife and children in Australia where they have learned to be content with what life has dealt them.
Apted concludes with the saddest and most charismatic character, Neil, a drifter who was homeless in "28 Up" and has now settled in Scotland's Shetland Islands, though he is still rather restless. As a child, Neil was bright and eager, seemingly as well-adjusted as anyone in the group. Aside from Neil, the most startling change in personality has come to Suzy, a chain-smoking rebel at 21 who vowed to never marry or have children. Now, at 35, she is happily married and has three youngsters with a cheerful appearance and demeanor that belie her early years. Among the others are Tony, a cabbie whose young dream was to be a jockey; Bruce, who aspired to be a missionary to Africa and is now a teacher in Bangladesh; John, a barrister who declined to be interviewed in "28 Up" but lets us catch up with his life in this edition; Jackie and Sue, who are both working-class divorced single parents; Lynn, a wife and mother diagnosed with a serious illness that is currently in remission; Nick, a college science professor living with his family in Wisconsin; etc.
As you might expect, these people's lives are not all that different from our own — as they grow older, each becomes more mature in his or her thinking; they watch their parents grow older and, in some cases, pass away; they have children and become more mellow; some divorce and some find their relationships strengthened through adversity . . . . In other words, "35 Up" is about life, real life from childhood through adulthood. Apted also looks at the impact of this ongoing documentary on their lives. John says at one point that he "bitterly regrets" being a part of the series, comparing it to "a little pill of poison" that comes into his life every seven years. "35 Up," which is not rated but does have a couple of profanities on the soundtrack, is simple, understated and utterly fascinating from start to finish. For anyone interested in the human condition — and aren't we all — this is must-see viewing.
Those delightful but exasperating children that we first met in 7-Up back in 1964 are now in their forties. Every seven years we keep coming back to them, courtesy of film maker Michael Apted. Does our fascination with the series say more about us than it does about them? Tony Jones: For many people, the children from the series 7-Up seem more familiar than their own families. We've watched their development every 7 years in the longest documentary experiment in history. In the early sixties, a fresh-faced Cambridge history graduate, Michael Apted scored his first job in television. The Granada program 'World in Action was under the helm of an Australian, Tim Hewat, who was fascinated by the British class system. He commissioned Apted to find 14 seven-year-olds from dramatically different backgrounds to test the theory that you could predict the nature of the adults by studying the child. What they hoped to do was produce a portrait of Britain at the turn of the century. It was only ever intended as a one-off but it took on a life of its own as Apted and the children developed what has become both a life-long relationship and a film project.
By RICHARD JINMAN, Entertainment Writer Every seven years, a shy father of two from suburban Melbourne gets a telephone call from the Hollywood director Michael Apted. "They always ring about a month ahead of filming and I think, "Oh God!'," said Paul, one of 14 British seven-year-olds interviewed by Apted in 1964 for a pioneering television documentary called 7 Up. "I never want to do it at first, but when the crew got here in January, I was fine." Despite his natural reserve, Paul [who prefers to keep his surname private] bared his soul for Apted's camera for the sixth time this year. The occasion was 42 Up, the latest instalment of a series which has tracked the lives of this disparate group of children at seven-year intervals.
"To be honest, I really enjoyed this one," said Paul, whose father brought him to Australia soon after his 7 Up debut. "There's a fair bit of excitement when they're here, and my wife and kids love it." Paul's early reticence about his 7 Up appearances - "I work in a factory, so I've always wondered what they get out of someone like me" - led him to deny he was involved in the series when recognised. Now, he has come to see it as a privilege, as well as a useful family record for his children. 7 Up also allowed him to regain contact with his mother and numerous family members in Britain. 42 Up, which finds 11 of the original group entering middle age, was screened on British television this week. Speaking from Los Angeles yesterday, Apted said 42 Up was more "reflective" than previous films. "They're looking back on half their lives and they're more articulate than ever," he said. "But it's always hard to get them re-involved. That's probably the hardest part." Paul, who has little contact with the rest of the group, said he still recognises the shy seven-year-old interviewed by Apted for 7 Up. "I'm a bit better, but the lack of confidence, the shyness was there at seven," he said. "I think you can see I wasn't bound for any great success, but I've been married 21 years this year and, so far, life has been good."
Apted admits to a strong emotional bond with his subjects. "It was surprising how stressful it was making this film," he said. "Like it or not, they are part of my life and when things aren't going well [for them] you worry." Thankfully, 7 Up's Neil - whose decline from happy child to withdrawn vagabond - has been the series' most tragic story, is faring much better. "He's left the Shetland Islands and moved back to London," said Apted. "He seems much more focused and more committed to things."
42 UP (G). A film review by Greg (Roy) King of Melbourne Australia. (Dendy) Documentary Director: Michael Apted Running time: 130 minutes. The series initially set out to demonstrate the belief that a person's fate was sealed at birth, and shaped by his social background. In the three decades since the 7 Up series began, it has undergone a subtle transformation, along with its characters. What began as a calculated experiment to show how class driven English society was in the '60's has now turned slowly into a journey through our own lives. The series often holds a mirror up to our own expectations, our hopes and dreams, our failures and our achievements, which gives it a powerful resonance. Apted still displays a remarkable affinity and empathy with his subjects. 42 Up is just like an occasional reunion amongst old friends, and Apted comfortably takes up this detailed and intimate portrait of these characters from where 35 Up left off.
There are detailed flashbacks to previous episodes, which help place the characters and their desires into context. Most of the characters now seem to have adapted to the regular intrusion into their lives of the "poison pill" represented by Apted and his documentary team. Two of the characters refused to take part in this latest instalment for their own deeply personal reasons. However, Simon, the black kid raised in a foster institution, returns, having now found happiness and contentment in a new relationship.
But the most surprising story here is that of Neil, who had lived a nomadic life that had taken him to the wilds of Scotland's highlands. A troubled picture of schizophrenia and depression, he has now become an active council man and politician. The film celebrates his achievements, and shows that anything is possible. Some of the material is quite fascinating, while several of the characters have settled into a comfortable middle aged routine, which is less inspiring. Some of them talk candidly about the weight of expectations, and the feeling of having to have done something extraordinary during the past seven years just to make the next instalment worth while and exciting.
42 Up is primarily a "talking heads" documentary, and Apted makes sparing use of external footage. The static nature of Apted's handling is a little dull and unadventurous. The running time of 130 minutes is a little generous for the subject matter. Consequently, the film may prove a little too long and slow for many in the audience, especially those unacquainted with either the concept or the characters.
In the early nineties similar projects were started in South Africa and Russia.
Here's what reviewers in Britain had to say about the film;
"I invite you to kick yourself hard for missing something on the box. ... If I was asked -- and oddly enough I often am -- to name the handful of programmes that would justify television as the pre-eminent medium of culture this century the 7Up and it's ensuing episodes, the latest of which, 42Up, was aired on the BBC, are in the top five. ... This series ought to be depressing but it isn't. It's the most hopeful tender thing on the box, because the time scale shows that the true success is not in ambition and goals achieved but in how you make the journey."
The Sunday Times
"Less a documentary than an event. less a TV show than a way of life - especially for the subjects. These seven yearly updates are probably the richest, most multi-layered and meaningful docusoups ever likely to be made, charting as they do not only the lives of those concerned but the social history of Britain itself."
The Daily Express
"One of television's greatest ideas resurfaced on the BBC - 42Up. ... At seven, they were all philosophers, which is why it worked so brilliantly. Poor children were asked what they thought of the rich and visa versa. All gave unabashed answers that were horribly revealing. Now these vivid, outspoken children have matured into a succession of generally contented middle aged adults who are generally how you would expect them to be. ... The programme makers are now telling individual stories and no longer asking those probing questions. It is now a soap opera that has lost its earlier sense of being a portrait of British society."
The Daily Telegraph
"This work remains absolutely fascinating. Even the incidental details offer a glimpse of the slightly surprising workings of recent social history - who would have thought, 35 years ago, that urchin Tony and posh Suzy would end up with virtually identical kitchen cabinets."