Movie Review: 56 Up (2012)

We’ve finally reached an installment of The Up Series that I previously reviewed on this blog when it first came out, so I included that original post after some thoughts from this viewing.

The first thing I noticed is that Michael Apted has broken the pattern of Tony first/Neil last and it really does shake things up, especially if you’re watching all these movies in a row.  More importantly, nearly 50 years into the project, a stunning 13 of 14 people participated in making this film, the best participation ratio since 1977!

Sue may have the least drama of anyone and most laid-back approach to these films.  Her children are grown and her responsibilities working at the University of London continue to increase (despite Michael Apted always pointing out that she never attended university). She’s been happily engaged to Glen for 14 years, and has taken up amateur drama performances.

Paul and his wife Sue are now working at an assisted living village.  They have  lots of grandkids who all appear on bikes. They visit their daughter Katie in England, the first member of the family to graduate university.

Neil is still representing his village in Cumbria and serving as a lay minister at his church.  He feels strongly about setting the record straight on past installments of The Up Series and wants to be recognized for his writing.

Peter returns for the first time since 28 Up! He explains how the media frenzy in response to his comments on the Thatcher administration kept him away.  In the meantime, he’s found work in the civil services, married, and has two kids who are now teenagers.  He and his wife play in an Americana band called Good Intentions.

Jackie remains optimistic despite going through some hard, hard times. Her ex-husband Ian died and her mother-in-law is terminally ill. Her benefits have been cut and the government said she should be able to work despite her disability.  She has a newborn grandchild and all three of her sons offer their insights in interviews.

Suzy & Nick -The best part of this episode is the seemingly unlikely pairing interviewed together.  They’ve been corresponding for some time and Nick believes that they have a lot in common due to their rural upbringing. Nick has a lot of deep insight into the value of the project. Suzy hates it but has a weird loyalty.

Symon and Vienetta’s children and former foster children have a lot of good things to say. Somehow Symon is very busy and laid back simultaneously.

Bruce is still doing well with Penny and two sons. We see them goofing around while camping and playing cricket in Oxford. We learn that they are a non-farting family.

Lynn’s prediction that the pennypinchers would cut funding to her department at the library and lay her off came true.   The whole family is hit hard by the recession and her husband has to go back to work after retiring.  Lynn cares for a grandson full-time after he was born premature.

John and Andrew are profiled together although sadly they are not brought together in person, which seems like a missed opportunity.  I don’t want to say that anyone’s life is boring but there’s seems to have changed the least.  John is still active in practicing law, supporting charities in Bulgaria, and still cranky about The Up Series.  Andrew is still working in a corporate legal department and his sons are grown up.  Unlike John, he believes there is still as class system.

Tony is now more famous than Buzz Aldrin, at least in London cabbie society.  The recession affected their Spanish vacation village and he did not open sports bar. Tony and Debbie are caring for a granddaughter whose mother is dealing with mental health issues. Tony makes several “I’m not racist, but…” types of comments and Michael Apted calls him out on it. The film ends with Tony visiting old haunts in the East End, and the Olympic Stadium built on the site of his old dog racing track.


Panorama of the Mountains

Title: 56 Up
Release Date:
14 May 2012
Michael Apted
Production Co:
ITV Studios
United Kingdom
Rating:  *****

Seven years ago, my wife and watched a box set of the first 6 movies in the Up Series, then went to a local art moviehouse to see the then current release 49 Up.  In about a week of binge-watching we became acquainted with the lives of 14 individuals from England who since they were seven years old have had their lives documented every seven years.  We’ve been eager to catch up with these participants and finally were able to watch the most recent installment.

The original tv special in 1964 was almost socialist in its approach, attempting to define how the rigid British class system is ingrained in children at the age of 7.  Since then, it’s become more of a humanist document of the…

View original post 229 more words

Movie Review: 49 Up (2005)

Title: 49 Up
Release Date: September 15, 2005
Director: Michael Apted
Production Company: Granada Television

Reality television, that is ordinary people who are not professional actors are seen in purportedly unscripted programs, has existed for as long as there has been television (for example, Candid Camera debuted in 1948). When Seven Up debuted in 1964 with 14 seven-year-old children talking about their lives, it added to a growing reality television paradigm.  By the late 1990s, the genre of reality television had exploded in dominance with many new programs, a lot which included some form of competition, innovated in the United Kingdom.

The participants of The Up Series were suddenly seeing reality TV making many people wealthy and famous.  But the cost of having one’s personal life broadcast of the world are dear, and that is something they all are reflecting upon.  John addresses is it most directly, considering The Up Series as nothing more than another form of sensationalism.  In one of the most cathartic moments in any of the films, Jackie calls out Michael Apted for his condescending questions, marginalizing the women participants to domestic roles, and editing to fit a predetermined story line.  Nick acknowledges how important the series is while noting that it still makes him uncomfortable.

This was the first Up film I watched in real time when it was released in U.S. movie theaters back in 2005 (or was it 2006?) shortly after binge-watching the first six movies.  It is also the movie that captures the participants at the age that I am now, 49, which is why I’ve decided to rewatch the series.  For the first time, the movie includes on screen labels depicting which prior episodes that clips are taken from, which is a huge help.  For a lot of these reason, I think this is the best installment of The Up Series to this point.

Tony is in a better place in his relationship with Debbie and is now a loving grandad.  As much as I love Tony I can’t help but be peeved by the disconnect of criticizing the new immigrants to the East End for not sharing English culture while simultaneously getting a vacation home in an all-English enclave in coastal Spain.

Apart from chewing out Michael Apted, Jackie is still raising three sons in Scotland, remaining close with her ex-husband and mother-in-law.  The rheumatoid arthritis is affecting her health but she is focused on what she can do more than what she can’t.

Sue is in love with Glen and they have a new house and a terrier.  Her children are teenagers and she has earned a managerial position at the University of London.

Bruce burned out at teaching in the East End and has moved on to a boys independent school where he sings in the choir and coaches the cricket team.  He and Penny are doing well and he seems quite content.

Paul got therapeutic help to deal with lack of confidence while Susan is working as an occupational therapist. He focuses on his grandchildren and running marathons

Suzy continues to be in a strong marriage with Rupert as their children start moving away.  She states that she’s more happy now than at any time previously in her life, but does not enjoy being part of the films and wants to bow out.

Nick suffered as setback at work that forced him to abandon his research.  His accent sounds more American now than when he was younger. He divorced his first wife but has remarried to Cryss, another professor (from a university in Minnesota), and they are doing well.

Lynn is still happily married to Russ with their daughters grown up and their first grandchild. At work she finds herself fighting cost cutting of children’s services at the library, and feeling that she isn’t going to win

Symon and Vienetta continue to do well  and they now have grandchildren. They are also foster parents, taking in children who arrive at Heathrow Airport who have been separated from family. The production brings Paul and his family to London to reunite with Symon and they both talk about their parents in more depth than they have before.

Andrew is still happily married with Jane and has left his law firm for industry.

John is still in law, still interested in politics, still married to Claire, still supporting Bulgarian philanthropy, and still cynical about the whole thing.

Neil has moved again, this time to a small village in Cumbria, where he is serving on county council and is active in his church.  He talks about his relationship with mother improving.

Rating: *****