Up With People

Generally when I write up these little blurbs about movies, I'm taking many things into consideration. How was the writing? How was the acting? Did it accomplish what it wanted to? Does it live up (or down) to popular opinion? Did I enjoy it on a purely aesthetic level? I don't have to do any of that with the Up Series. Allow me to quote myself from seven years ago:

In 1963, filmmaker Michael Apted decided to stage a grand experiment. He selected a group of British children born in 1956 from wildly varying economic classes, and asked them several questions. What did they want to be when they grew up? What do they think of the opposite sex? What do they think of other races? What do they think about the kids from the other economic classes? The television program 7 Up was born. His idea was to follow these children as they grew up and thus prove something about how adults are really no different from their 7-year-old selves or something about how you can predict aspects of adult life from children's personalities. At least that's what his initial intentions appeared to be, and at this, he failed spectacularly. However, I have just finished watching the Up Series, and have to say that it is one of the most engrossing programs ever put on the air.

So forget all that critical evaluation! Really, all that has to happen here is for me to see how all the participants are doing, and it's a guaranteed win. It took one look at the kids (well, "kids") that I haven't seen for seven years, and I just about burst out crying. Less has happened since 49 Up than you'd imagine. Certainly there have been big life events, some of them tragic. But in general, people are still in the same position they were seven years ago, but with one major difference.

The big recession did not just hit us here in America, and the loss of money and safety net programs has deeply affected some of the Up participants as well. They're also quite forthcoming about how they feel about being in the program all these years, and not all of them are pleased with it. Suzy, in particular, keeps agreeing to come back, not because she wants to, but out of a deep-seated loyalty to Apted and the experiment. And all we can do is thank her for it. Both the participants and Apted himself are starting to get up there, so any of these movies may be the last. And that thought makes me misty all over again.

56 Up: A


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