“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Filmmaker Paul Almond first explored that old Jesuit maxim in 1964 when he interviewed fourteen 7-year-olds of every social class for his British TV documentary Seven Up!
Seven years later, Michael Apted, who’d been a researcher on the special, decided to track down the kids and see if they’d participate in a follow-up. Most did — and have continued to participate every seven years since.
Apted’s 49 Up (out today on DVD) revisits its subjects — nuclear physicist Nick, politician Neil (homeless when 21 Up was filmed), librarian Lynn, cabdriver Tony, and the others — at age 49, and also works in flashbacks from each of the previous Ups. The result is a funny, sad, often quite moving epic about how humans cope when reality diverges from expectations.
The particular pleasure of this installment is in seeing how the subjects have generally moved past various hardships to arrive at middle-aged contentedness. So many documentaries chronicle failure and trauma; here’s one that, surprisingly, shows more or less ordinary people actually making their lives better.
“>VIEW the trailer for 49 Up
“>BUY 49 Up (First Run Features, 134 minutes)
“>RENT 49 Up from Netflix
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