Moving and ambitious, Michael Apted's Up documentaries began in 1964 as a BBC news program exploring an old Jesuit maxim: "Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man." Using interviews with 14 randomly selected schoolchildren, Seven Up! sought to probe English society "when the shop steward and the executive of 2000 are seven years old." Forty-two years and six films later, we've come to know less about the English class struggle than we do about the thrashings of time, the melancholy of aging, and the beauty of workaday human resilience and intimacy. Try to think of another movie project that endeavors to capture in some fashion the entirety of a life's experience. Unfussy in its visuals, 49 Up is a film in a continuum, riveting for its place in the arc of the series. By itself it can sometimes feel like grilling your ordinary neighbors about their history, when they'd rather be washing the car. But context is everything, and few media experiences can touch the poignancy of the Up films' real-time historical reach.
Director: Michael Apted
Producer: Michael Apted, Claire Lewis and Karen Stockton