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: *****

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