This is the fourth entry in the Up documentary series that I am exploring.
Michael Apted decided to change-up the structure this time. He has started to explore each subject with more depth so he gave each one (with the exception of the three girls who have always been interviewed together but each have their own special time to themselves as well) their own section instead of cutting together everybody’s answers together. This results in a longer film and one that can drag at times. But I also feel like I have a stronger handle on where each subject is at their particular part of life. It also opens up the picture so that it isn’t a series of talking heads, but also a day in the life of each subject. This is also the point where subjects start to drop out. This time there are two people who refused to be interviewed, both of them were from the upper crust. This will be a challenge that Apted will have to conquer from here on out.
Almost all but two people have started families by this time in their life. The man who was half black and half white has the most robust family, having had five children within the space of only a couple of years. It is obvious that he is compensating for not having siblings or a father while growing up. He also seems to have grown out of his depression and has become happy with his lot in life. In contrast the young man who was squatting in London has continued a nomad existence and we see him living in a very small trailer on the coast. He is quite simply sad. He feels like he has wasted something but is trying his best to make a go at life. I am intrigued to see how he will turn out.
This movie is truly a study of contrasts. One man who read Math at Oxford and had a very good education decided to drop out of the rat race and teach at a general education school full of recent immigrants and poor children. He seems content with his choice and talks about how he wants to give everything he can to better society. He talks about immigration issues and the need to have a diverse country. On the other hand, a man who had a pretty good education but nothing spectacular is also a teacher at a general education school and hates it. He talks about how little respect he gets at the school and how little he is paid. He hates having to go to work every day. He also grumbles about Thatcher and the politic atmosphere. Another contrast is the posh young girl who seemed to hate life at twenty-one is now a happy housewife. She seemed moody and didn’t trust the Apted in the previous installments, but here she seems to be glowing. She smiles and talks about the future for her child with an earnestness that is appealing. She understands that she wasn’t truly happy for a long time because of the long battle with divorce in her life and her father dying. But she now understands that these troubles just make you stronger. Apted juxtaposes her currently with old footage and the evidence of the transformation is fascinating.
It seems that the documentary has evolved into a more personal snapshot of individual people instead of a political statement. Although Apted still asks political questions, the answers are more founded on concrete evidence instead of lofty ideas and dreams. I don’t know if these people are truly representative of 1984 England (and America and Australia), but I do know that each person has a unique way of looking at their lot in life. But this view of life has changed only a little bit since they were children. Apted cuts in footage from the previous movies into the film and you can see that they are still their essential selves that they were at seven. Truly interesting.