56 Up | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

56 Up 

Reality TV's longest-running experiment

Pin It
Favorite
click to enlarge 56 Up
  • 56 Up

With the arrival of 56 Up, I think it’s fair to ask: Has Michael Apted’s now-legendary documentary series become more theoretically fascinating than actually fascinating?

If you’re coming into the project for the first time, it’s easy to understand how it could feel like a monumental achievement. A project nearly 50 years in the making, it began with a 1964 British documentary interviewing a group of 7-year-olds from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and life circumstances, with Apted subsequently re-visiting many of them every seven years. Watching this handful of characters grow from children to teenagers to adults—through parenthood and, in many cases now, grandparenthood—has been remarkable.

Where these men and women are concerned, however, there’s not much further for the story to go. Since the thesis of the original program was that the British class system locked kids into their future life circumstances at an early age, the work was in many ways done once we saw where they stood in mature adulthood. It may be comforting to check in periodically and see that Neil, Jackie, Suzy, Tony and company are still kicking around, but there’s nothing revelatory to be found. They are who they are, the continuation of the project perpetuating its magnitude simply by virtue of not stopping.

Indeed, the most compelling moments in 56 Up come when the participants reflect not on their lives, but on the experience of being part of the series itself: Peter, who dropped out of the program years earlier, returning to use the film’s platform to promote his music; Neil lamenting the way his mental health has been portrayed over the years; physicist Nick musing on the series being not just about them, but about “every person, how they change.” We’re learning little more about our subjects, but a lot about the ongoing process of history’s longest-running experiment in reality television.

56 UP

3_stars.gif

Documentary
Not Rated

Twitter: @ScottRenshaw

Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of , ,

More by Scott Renshaw

Latest in Film Reviews

  • What's In a Name?

    Seberg is at its best when it's not just about the famous actress in its title.
    • Feb 26, 2020
  • Power Failure

    The Assistant brilliantly captures the dynamics that protect abusers.
    • Feb 19, 2020
  • Snow Job

    Downhill remakes a dark character study as broad comedy.
    • Feb 12, 2020
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Small Gestures

    Two nuanced performances elevate familiar elements in Puzzle.
    • Aug 23, 2018
  • The Not-So-Broken Road to Acting

    Utah native Lindsay Pulsipher on the journey from Touched by an Angel to playing a war widow.
    • Sep 5, 2018

© 2020 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation