In 1964, a British television program sought to shed light on England’s class system by interviewing fourteen 7-year-olds, chosen to represent the extremes of Britain’s socio-economic backgrounds. Researchers asked them about their lives, hopes, and dreams. “7 Up” became the first of a series of documentaries that followed these children from innocent primary schoolers to adulthood, checking in with them every seven years. With “56 Up,” director Apted returns to his subjects for the 7th time, inviting them to look back at their lives, compare their childhood dreams to present reality, and wonder what’s next.
Why we love it
Apted (who was a researcher on the original TV program, and has directed all episodes since) continues his exploration of the big issues (life, identity, predetermination) with his microcosmic examination of these now middle-aged adults. Using clips from the previous films, he economically lays out each subject’s life, pulling back to make sense of what so often looks like chaos up close. The result is that we gain insight into each subject, even if this is our first experience with the “Up” series. Not surprisingly, the participants have matured, appearing more settled and satisfied with their lives. Yet underneath each aging face, you see the shadow of the child from the original “7.” Don’t miss this fascinating social experiment, an eye-opening look at the human condition.