56 Up: Film Review

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Yes, it’s only the second day of the new year, but I can say with absolute definitive certainty that one of the best movies you’ll see all year is the unique and beautiful documentary from director Michael Apted, 56 Up. The “movie” (as it were) actually began in 1964 with the film Seven Up in which 14 British children were interviewed by filmmakers that promised to revisit each child every seven years thereafter to see how they were doing. The point of the whole exercise was not only to track their progress and to see how their lives turned out, but to measure the veracity of the Jesuit Maxim, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.”

Of course, the world has changed tremendously since 1964 and not many people live by Jesuit proverbs anymore, but the one thing that does matter in the entire proceedings is that all of the children survived into adulthood and have – to varying degrees of success – made of their lives what they planned many years before. Most of the film subjects have grown up to become fully respectable members of society (none of them have broken any major laws or seen their lives dissolve into tatters) but more than that they have served as a reminder that life is rarely what we call “realized expectations”.

Other stuff happens. Good stuff and bad stuff. And since there’s no way to get around it, the only way to make peace with life is to accept all of it. An informed and informative documentary that everyone should see.