The seventh chapter in helmer Michael Apted’s long-running “Up” docu series, “49 Up” follows diverse Brits first selected at age 7 as they now approach a surprisingly becalmed middle age. Stateside, First Run Features plans an early October theatrical bow, with fest dates prior to that and DVD sales sure to be brisk afterward.
Pic arrives at key moment in series history. Newly available boxed set of previous episodes ensures greater anticipation than ever before, while resulting familiarity with subjects is on par with any reality TV skein.
Unfortunate, then, that the docu reveals most of the subjects to be comfortably settled, if not downright happy. That may bode well for the glimpse of Britain’s future promised by the original, which was based on the Jesuit maxim, “Give me the child until he is 7, and I will show you the man,” it doesn’t make for involving drama, unless the audience is already invested in the subjects’ fortunes. Thus, “49 Up” will have more appeal for long-time followers than newcomers.
Neil, the most troubled of the group, has traveled from virtual homelessness in Thatcher-era England to a comfortable life as local politico in a northwest village. “There are many things in my life that could have happened,” he says with a dignity tinged by regret, “but didn’t.”
Tony the aspiring jockey and amateur actor is still married to Debbie, and the two are seen enjoying their grandchildren at their second house on the Spanish coast. Bruce teaches at St. Albans; Nick has a pretty new wife, Chris; and Symon has returned from his self-imposed exile prior to “42 Up,” and is seen palling around with Paul, who had set out for Australia. Lynn is still a librarian.
Only the always-feisty Jackie sounds any note of discord: “You will edit this program as you see fit, I’ve got no control over that,” she says, angry at a perceived manipulation of their fortunes over the years. “This one may be — may be — the first one that’s about us rather than about your perception of us.” Maybe that’s why there’s a distinct lack of tension to the proceedings.
A few negative references to the Blair government are as close as the pic comes to reflecting the political mood of England.
Tech credits are clean, with no diminishment of the shock in seeing these brave, beleaguered citizens age in the blink of an eye. Pic retains the logo of “World in Action,” the 1963-1998 Brit current affairs skein in which the series originated, and is dedicated to Aussie founding producer Tim Hewat, who died in a road accident in 2004.