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Movie Review: 49UP

Director Michael Apted ("Nell") began documenting the lives of 14 children in 1964 and has returned to them every seven years since. The first film, "7UP", produced for British television, began as an examination of the class system. These kids were from both upper and lower income families; they were either spoon fed or forced to struggle day by day just to survive. The thesis was originally to discover what kind of benefit or hindrance this class system would inspire in their development as adults. Where would these children be in the year 2000?

One of the many illuminating surprises of this series is how the filmmakers, as well as the viewer, begin to discredit this distinction. In the game of life, the films seem to surmise, we're all on the same ride, despite what detours we might take along the way.

These films do not attempt to embellish their content or manipulate their subjects for dramatic effect. They understand that no amount of extranuous flourish can enhance the drama more than the natural course of life. Wherever these subjects find themselves in the subsequent films, their likeness to the 7-year old versions of themselves is uncanny, both physically and psychologically. Their ambitions and defects are evident right from the start and they weigh heavily in their development even as they enter their fifth decade.

By the age of 14, their awkward views on relationships are cast and you can see how they factor in to their dissolved marriages many years later. For some, they have overcome to their long held insecurities and made their marraiges thrive through sheer determination and hard work. By 21, you can see their transition into adulthood and all the anxiety and fear that entails. At 28, you discover whether they overcame those fears or succumbed to them. By the age of 35, most of them have undergone of tremendously profound metamorphosis, struggling to deal with the loss of their parents while finding resolve in the comforts of their own children. One of the subjects is still lost at 35, homeless and questioning his own sanity. Where he winds up by 42 and 49 is a testament to the neverending presence of hope and the kindness of others.

A large demographic of moviegoers tend to shun documentaries. They, often inaccurately, categorize the genre as a tedious medium that fails to deliver on the primary magic inherent in the power of cinema: the ability to transport. In the end, though, all moviegoers want an entertainment that they can relate to and feel elated by. From the first frame of this groundbreaking documentary series to the last, viewers will be enthralled, enlightened and entranced by this powerful meditation on the profoundness of everday life.

The latest in this series, "49UP", has recently been released on DVD. A

You can read this and many more in-depth film reviews at


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