Andrew Brackfield

Andrew Brackfield

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49 Up Review

I admit I've given Michael Apted a hard time about the Up series in the past. Recent installments have been meandering and have seemed to lose focus over what the series is really all about. In the last couple of films, Apted has erred toward sensationalism rather than introspection.

49 Up marks a return to basics and fine form. It's a more thoughtful documentary about life in England, and a better-organized one than the past entries. Finally, for the first time in years, the stories are told with grace and power, and the film really sucks you in. Now that Apted is in his 60s and he's hitting Up with its seventh installment, maybe he's finally determined the best way to present this material.

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Seven Up! Review

In 1964, Michael Apted had a genius idea: Find 20 kids, all age seven, living in Britain. Find out what they think about, what makes them different, and where they think they're headed. The key will be to check in with them every seven years, forming the world's only filmed living document of how people change over long periods of time.

The 40-minute Seven Up! introduces the kids briefly, then promptly ends. The films that would follow: 7 Plus Seven, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, and finally 42 Up, duly check in with our kids to see where they've gotten to in life. (All six films are now available on a box set DVD edition.) But the problem with the Up series is that nothing changes in the lives of these kids year after year. They get older, and as expected their dreams of being movie stars and astronauts fade into more recognizable realities. And maybe this is part of the momentum of the British class system -- but no one dramatically leaps out of poverty, and no wealthy children ever fall from lofty heights. (Perhaps this series would have been more interesting if made in a more socially fluid country?)

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35 Up Review

If there's ever been a more telling indictment that, indeed, the poor stay poor and the rich get rich, I haven't found it. 35 Up is nothing less than a bleak yet scathing documentary skewering the class structure of Britain. Michael Apted began this series in the 1960s with Seven Up!, profiling a couple dozen 7-year-olds. He's come back every 7 years since, and 35 Up is the fifth installment in the series. It's remarkable how correct those kids were about where they'd end up in life, though the few exceptions are noteworthy, showing that yes indeed, a farmer's son can make it off the farm once in awhile.

Unfortunately, 35 Up is exceedingly long and repetitive. Apted repeatedly asks if the lower-class folks are upset they didn't have enough opportunity, and he asks the upper-class people if they feel guilty about it. Remarkably, everyone answers no on all counts. The controversy will have to wait. And so with the intrigue that goes along with it. C'est la vie. Literally.

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42 Up Review

It gets longer every seven years!

Now clocking in at a monstrous 2 hours, 19 minutes, the sixth installment of Michael Apted's ambitious but uniformly unenlightening Seven Up! series drags us down a familiar road, kicking and screaming all the way.

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