begins with a set of questions that seems to hark back to the
sociological and psychological ideas of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Is
an individual’s personality fully formed at age seven? Will
his or her class status bear heavily on life decisions? Will
the education one receives be central to one’s career choices?
Director Michael Apted goes one better by re-visiting the same
group of individuals at seven-year intervals to ask each of
these questions once again.
thing that makes this very English film fascinating to an American
is the subject of class. Americans do not spend very much time
talking about class. On the surface, they do not seem very interested
in it. But American parents, like English ones, want their children
to have more choices than they did. They want them to receive
a better education and have better career opportunities. Their
pre-occupations, in fact, are no different than those of their
British counterpoints in 28UP. The only difference is
that these British interviewees are much more likely to be aware
of society’s structures, even if only to make a point of dismissing
biggest change in the forth installment of UP is also
its unifying element: Tony, Suzi, Simon, and others have married
since 21UP, and these relationships have had a profound
effect on each of them. Tony had originally planned to be a
jockey and when that dream failed to materialize, he became
a cab driver. At 21, he expressed resentments against the class
system and gave the impression that he would be perpetually
disappointed in life. Now married with two children, he plays
golf with friends and strives to do well at his job, giving
the appearance of a happily settled person. Suzi was an unhappy,
depressed, chain smoker at 21 with no plans to marry or have
children. Now at 28, she lives with her husband and two children
in the English countryside and is surprisingly easygoing and
quick to smile. Her interaction with her husband and children
is touching, and it isn’t difficult to imagine her living
the remainder of her life here.
biggest concern of these new parents is the future education
and well being of their children. Paul and his wife live in
Australia and have two children. A child of divorced parents,
Paul wants his children to live happier lives than he did. He
would also be willing to send his children to a private school,
an opportunity he never had, in hopes of giving them more choices
and a chance to move up. Simon and his wife have five children,
and while he encourages their education, he doesn’t push it.
He seems acutely aware of each child’s needs and is willing
to take time to help them with schoolwork or to solve a problem.
He can provide them with a happy childhood, he believes, by
providing them with something he never had: a father.
of the most fascinating though disturbing portraits is of Neil,
a loner who has been traveling throughout England since the
previous film. He is unsettled, restless, and an incessant talker,
or the opposite of all of the portraits mentioned above. He
lives off social security, hasn’t worked in three years, and
doesn’t seem to relate well to other people. He appears to be
far from resolving a number of conflicts, such as being turned
down for Oxford, that were with him seven years earlier. The
odd component in this portrait is how intelligent he appears.
He enjoys quiet conversation about literature, he says, and
is alienated by the pastimes that most people enjoy, such as
noisy pubs and small talk. One begins to worry, watching this
directionless adult, that he will never find his place in society.
Simon, Paul and others have also resolved their conflicts by
going to work and focusing on everyday needs. At 21, many of
these participates seemed confused and self-absorbed, feelings
not uncommon for people who really haven’t started out on life’s
path. In many ways they seemed to be talking about life instead
of living it. At 28, they worry about their careers/jobs and
about their children’s future. Instead of complaining about
their lack of educational opportunities, they concentrate on
earning enough to give their children these opportunities. Living
life, keeping a household and seeing to the needs of a spouse
or child, leaves less time for self-absorption.
reinforces certain themes that have been emphasized previously
in the series: people will make choices based on their class
status and the education they have received. But this installment
also shows that there is a great deal of elasticity in the human
psyche. Tony’s background may have guaranteed that he would
become a blue-collar worker; it didn’t dictate whether or not
he would be happy. An important relationship (mostly marriage),
for many of these participates, has made the difference. Relationships
and children have helped these individuals resolve conflicts,
unrealized dreams, and anger over class issues. 28UP recognizes
that individuals are restrained by many societal forces, but
also affirms that they have the resilient ability to re-create
themselves within a seven-year period of time.
D. Lankford, Jr.
Steve Morris—Executive Producer
George Jessie Turner—Cinematography
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