49 UP (2005) A Documentary Film Review
In 1964 British TV interviewed a group of seven year-old schoolchildren and each seven years since director Michael Apted has returned to follow up on their lives. I first heard Ebert praise the series when 28 Up was released in 1984, but I couldn’t locate a copy. I finally saw 35 Up on Cinemax in the early 1990s and I had a lot of trouble connecting with the people. I’ve since read reviews saying that it was a poor episode to begin on because the increasingly middle aged subjects were less optimistic about their futures.
Earlier in the year I saw 42 Up on TV and had an entirely different experience. The familiarity with the characters, my own aging, and the more positive outlook made for a much better ride. With 49 UP I’m now with Ebert in calling this one of the best executed documentaries in film history. The perseverance to chronicle these lives through the years is ultimately life affirming especially as it contrasts the present realities with the bleak expectations a few films earlier.
The characters lives are like ours. They struggle with disease, death of their loved ones, divorce, career changes, but as they near the half century mark, they are much more resigned with their accomplishments and failures and less interested in the status that they were so conscious of in the past. Many of the people say bluntly that they don’t like doing the series and that it trudges up bad memories that they have to re-live every 7 years. And yet, they continue to participate out of habit or maybe just the commitment that it’s bigger than their individual wants.
Who would have thought that Tony, the poor
It takes some getting acquainted with the principles to really dig it and I’m glad that with time I have come to enjoy their parade. The series has become as much about life in general although it focuses on these specific lives.