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
Director:
Michael Apted
Production Co:
ITV Studios
Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Genre:
Documentary
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…

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