Everyday Movie Review
An impressive cinematic experiment, this film is worth seeing for its big concept and documentary touches, even if the narrative is frustratingly underdeveloped. We can actually see the passage of time, as the cast and crew shot this fly-on-the-wall drama over five years. So it's a shame there's so little going on to hold our interest.
The story takes place in rural Norfolk, where Karen (Henderson) is struggling to take care of her four young children (played by the four Kirk siblings, using their own names). Her husband Ian (Simm) is in prison, and taking the kids to visit him is a big outing. Things get easier when he's transferred to a lower security location and given weekend passes to visit his family. But as the years pass, the children grow up and Karen and Ian's relationship begins to shift. And for help, Karen befriends a local man who fills Ian's upcoming release with mixed emotion.
Winterbottom assembles this as an intriguing blending of the kitchen-sink drama (most notably portrayed through Michael Nyman's surging score) and a grainy, hand-held documentary. There is no shape of a plot to speak of, and few significant events along the way. Essentially, the film is merely examining these four children as they age over five years, which is rather astonishing as we've never seen it captured on film like this. Their scenes with Henderson and Simm are especially well-played, beautifully revealing the affection and tension between parents, children, spouses, brothers and sisters. Even though we never find out why Ian was imprisoned, Simm gives him a quiet realism that plays nicely opposite Henderson's superbly underplayed exhaustion.
Since the film is shot with hand-held video cameras, much of the dialog is mumbled and inaudible, and the tightly framed images limit how much we can see of any scene. More problematic are the holes in the premise, such as the fact that Karen doesn't seem to have any family or friends around her to help. But along the way, the film captures some remarkable moments of honest emotion, quiet joy and wrenching pain. And although it's a bit simplistic, the resonant point seems to be that everyday life goes on no matter what our circumstances, and that all of us can rise to whatever challenge we are faced with.