By Glenn Heath Jr.
In 1964, Canadian filmmaker Paul Almond spearheaded a documentary project called “Seven Up!” featuring interviews with a cross-section of British 7-year-olds answering questions about a range of subjects. Every seven years since, director Michael Apted (who was one of the researchers on the initial film) has checked in on those same subjects as they’ve grown up, experienced failures and successes, married and had children, and took vastly different directions in life.
The resulting “Up” series has become one of the most expansive and revealing film projects, literally documenting the totality of life in real time. Two of the entries—“28 Up” and “35 Up”—are particularly sobering time capsules depicting England’s transition out of Thatcher-era austerity.
Unfortunately, the latest from Apted and company, “63 Up,” isn’t nearly as interesting as those earlier films. It spends so much time recycling footage and interviews from previous films simply to catch the casual viewer up on each of the fourteen subjects.
The new interviews that are provided do little to deepen the wealth of life experiences depicted over the five decades since the project’s inception. Many of the subjects view the “Up” series as a doubled-edged sword. On the one hand they’ve each become famous in the United Kingdom because of the series’ success. But many of them admit that they now dread committing more time to a process that inevitably dredges up old traumas and sadness.
Since the “Up” Series is essentially about the English class system, Apted naturally asks many of his longtime subjects about Brexit. But none of them discuss the controversial referendum outside of one- or two-sentence answers that fail to explore the more nuanced complexities of Britain’s polarizing political climate. As a result, “63 Up” is anticlimactic and apolitical, and will go down as one of the weaker installments in this monumental saga.
“63 Up” is now showing at Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square 14.