49 Up (2006)

Directed by Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough)

Summary: The latest installment of The Up Series.

49 Up is a difficult film to watch, not because of harrowing tragedies or nationally known events, but because of the unexpected ennui of middle age. The participants in the series endure none of the trials they experienced as young adults, such as the loss of a parent or the strains of establishing a new career. Their children are, for the most part, grown. They are nearing retirement. And the question has become: what now?

Those who began their lives as the children of wealthy parents find themselves the parents of children whose futures are much less certain. Few of the social guarantees remain that had once benefited the elite. And despite the benefits they received as children, the same participants still suffer many of the uncertainties of midlife: job security, boredom with their careers, the successes and failures of their children, and mortality.

Those who began their lives as impoverished children still contend with a general lack of self-esteem that reflects in their behavior toward others, their children, and in the workplace, despite maturity and success. In this, the impressions of a childhood lacking in emotional and material security prove insurmountable.

And of course, Neil is still crazy -- yet his attempt to create purpose in the remaining years of his life continued in earnest as he lobbied to become a member of Parliament for the Liberal Democrats. Only Bruce, who married at age 42, offered surprises with regard to his personal life; he and his bride had two young boys. After decades of searching for a partner and someone to love, Bruce seemed content.

But that is the extent of significant changes revealed in this segment. Instead, the participants struggled with not only their life choices at age 49, but with the difficulty of participating in this documentary on an ongoing basis. Jackie, in particular, argued with director Michael Apted about his portrayal of her status as a single parent and her ongoing health problems. Whereas previous installments revealed children and young adults of strong and sometimes careless opinions, here they struggled with Apted to take hold of the narrative and present themselves as they believed they should be seen. In this segment, more so than in any other chapter of The Up Series, the participants fought for the right to tell their own story.

With age comes wisdom, and wisdom in the case of a lifelong documentary means understanding how much the camera determines for you, no matter your words. The children of 1956 know that the cameras are rolling, and they watch it with suspicion. I, for one, will be watching them again in 2013.

1 comment:

Ashok said...

A true use of the medium to the right application. I watched the whole series from 7 till 49 in a week and I loved it ! The raw presentation without any fancy elements attached is one of the high lights of "The Up Series".