Everyday: Toronto Review

Everyday Toronto Film Still - H 2012

Everyday Toronto Film Still - H 2012

Why go out for what you get at home?

Shirley Henderson does her best to hold everything together in a story about a family waiting for the husband/father to be released from prison.

An admirable idea in theory proves to be a real slog to sit through in Everyday, Michael Winterbottom's attempt to incorporate the real passage of time, including the aging of the cast, into a dramatic feature film. As does her character, a working class mother of four, Shirley Henderson does her best to hold everything together here, but the director has chosen to emphasize the observational over the dramatic in this thinly developed story of a family waiting for the husband/father to be released from prison. Television rather than feature slots are the best bets for this patience-testing effort.

With the announced aim of documenting the duration of things, Winterbottom, over the course of five years and in between other projects, periodically called together his small cast to gather in Norwich for a few days to shoot a bit more of the daily grind faced by Karen (Henderson) and her kids while Ian (John Simm) stews in the stir.

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During this period, the director was typically busy, having shot and completed A Summer in Genoa, the documentary The Shock Doctrine, The Killer Inside Me, The Trip, Trishna and, for good measure, the short 60 Seconds of Solitude in Year Zero.

Whatever else can be said for those films, they are loaded with incident and drama compared to Everyday, which captures the quotidian in a way not far removed from the style of reality shows except for the fact that the dull and routine are here favored over the lively and confrontational.

In addition to his two professional leads, Winterbottom had a bright idea of casting four siblings -- Shaun, Robert, Katrina and Stephanie Kirk -- as the kids, and there is certainly continuing interest in witnessing them actually grow up onscreen over the course of 97 minutes. But Winterbottom and co-screenwriter Laurence Coriat seem to have felt that just watching them evolve physically would be sufficient, as they've been given no characters to play or scenes to act in the normal sense; they've merely been plopped in front of the camera and seem have been asked to do nothing further than be themselves.

The result of this approach is, in a word, uninteresting; for all their screen time, the kids have been given nothing of value to say and register as relative blanks, leaving all the heavy lifting to the teeny Henderson. Professional kid actors and a bit of dialogue written for them would have gone at least some way towards enlivening the many uneventful scenes set around the house, in the kitchen and at school, and getting around via diverse means of transportation.

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Of the tedium and repetitiveness of life as experienced by all here there can be no doubt, the only highlights being the periodic visits (a long haul away) to prison to visit Ian. There's no visible shame on the parts of the kids for their father's drug-related criminal status, just happiness to see him and the desire for him to be released. As that date approaches, he's allowed out with the family for a few hours, permitting a quickie in a hotel room between Ian and Karen. In the end, there's only one mild surprise in the entire film but that, too, seems to wash out into the general run of ordinary events that ultimately prove to be just that -- ordinary.

The one dynamic element is the typically bold, invigorating score by Michael Nyman, which seems to exist in an entirely different realm from the drudgery onscreen.

Production: Film Four, Revolution Films
Venue: Telluride Film Festival
Cast: Shirley Henderson, John Simm, Shaun Kirk, Robert Kirk, Katrina Kirk, Stephanie Kirk
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Screenwriters: Laurence Coriat, Michael Winterbottom
Producer: Melissa Parmenter
Executive producer: Andrew Eaton
Directors of photography: Sean Bobbit, James Clarke, Annemarie Lean-Vercoe, Simon Tindall, Marcel Zyskind
Editors: Mags Arnold, Paul Monaghan
Music: Michael Nyman
97 minutes