Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—42 Up (1998) ****

NR, 139 min.
Director: Michael Apted
Featuring: Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, Suzanne Dewey, Nicholas Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Susan Sullivan, Tony Walker

I post this review on my own 42nd birthday. Back in 1964, British television embarked on a grand social experiment that involved a group of children of varying social classes, 7 years of age. The filmmakers would return to this group of people every seven years to see where they had come in life in a series of films called the “Up” documentaries. Just this past year the most recent installment “56 Up” was released. I’m only on “42 Up”. I suppose that is fitting.

The series, which started as a social experiment to see how much effect the British class system had on the life quality of people of various classes, has morphed by this installment into a document on the human spirit. Certainly social standing has affected where these people’s lives have brought them so far, although most of them claim it hasn’t, but what stands more prominently above any sort of social experiment is each individual’s drive to have the life they desire out of the resources at their disposal.

Each segment of the series opens with this quotation by canonized Roman Catholic missionary Francis Xavier, “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Saint Francis Xavier’s observation proves quite true in the “Up” series as each adult, even at age 42, seems pretty much exactly the person they were at 7. Through the years we’ve seen some of these people have great highs and lows. One in particular has made an amazing comeback since the previous installment “35 Up”, going from a homeless man bordering on a total mental breakdown to a London suburb councilman.

For the first time, the effects of being featured in the “Up” series are addressed by most of the participants. It seems most of them probably alter their behavior and their outlook a bit for their time in the spotlight, but I do feel most of what they say is genuinely from their hearts. Only two of the original participants have dropped out of participation at this point. Both of them have rather public lives, and their refusal to participate is understandable; however, I find it interesting that they are both of the highest social class depicted here.

With my own 42nd year upon me, there is much to consider after watching this movie. Some of the participants have found extreme success, while others are more successful in their hearts than you could really say they were professionally. You gotta give it to the taxi driver, though; he said from the time he was young exactly what he wanted to do with his life and he always did just that. At 42, he no longer seems to have more dreams upon which to follow, so the contentedness of age seems to be setting in. I have not become all the things I said I would, but I am happy where I am. At 42, that’s doing pretty well in my book.

No comments: