56 Up: Hamptons Review
Michael Apted returns to his long-running documentary series that revisits the lives of its subjects every seven years.
THE HAMPTONS, New York -- The eighth installment of one of cinema's most worthy enterprises, Michael Apted's 56 Up, finds its subjects largely unchanged since the last outing, holding steady in their own lives -- which Apted and company have been monitoring at seven-year intervals since 1964's Paul Almond-directed Seven Up! -- and saving their worry for children and grandkids. Self-contained enough for theatrical auds new to the series, it will play best with those who've come to care for these Brits over time.
Though some of the first film's 14 subjects have opted out of installments over the years, all but one returns here. (Charles Furneaux, now a documentary producer himself, dropped out after 21 Up.) In what may be this outing's biggest surprise, longtime absentee Peter Davies, who skipped three in a row, returns in part (cue audience laughter) "to promote the band I'm in..."
Peter is thoughtful in explaining his withdrawal, citing the harshness of media response to anti-Thatcher comments he made in 1984's 28 Up. Perhaps more than its predecessors, this installment affords interviewees chances to air misgivings about their involvement: John Brisby, always presented as a child of privilege, makes fair points in complaining about that depiction -- but the barrister overstates his case, and the tough times endured by his hard-working but less well-born costars make him look myopic.
More poignant are the comments of Neil Hughes, the once-homeless politician who has generated enormous viewer sympathy in the films but insists that none of the letter-writers who claim to understand him have a clue. On a happier note, cockney cab driver Tony Walker enjoys telling a story about being more famous than Buzz Aldrin.
We've seen marriages come and go in the Up films and are accustomed to predicting which won't survive until the next iteration. But the domestic-contentment level seems relatively high this time around, even with government cutbacks and employment difficulties making things difficult for some families. Even one of Apted's least fortunate subjects, Jackie Bassett, refuses to entertain any pity viewers may offer her: At 56, the twice-divorced single mother of three, suffering rheumatoid arthritis and watching two family members die of cancer, says, "I think my life's gonna be good."
Production company: ITV
Director: Michael Apted
Producers: Michael Apted, Claire Lewis
Executive producer: Alexander Gardener
Director of photography: George Jesse Turner
Editor: Kim Horton
No rating, 143 minutes