The Austin Chronicle

Thirty-Five Up

Directed by Jon Moritsugu, Jacques Boyreau. Starring Elizabeth Canning, Victor E. Of Aquitaine, Marek Waldorf.

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., March 20, 1992

The unexamined life may not be worth living but living lives as examined as those in this movie requires some accommodation. In 1963, a group of seven-year-olds from various backgrounds were chosen as subjects for a documentary project to take place every seven years. There are five films in the series: Seven Up, Seven plus Seven, Twenty One, 28 Up and now 35 Up. Each film stands alone because each film uses bits of earlier interviews with the children to tell their story so far. They reveal for the most part that opportunity in life is often dictated by background, especially education. The children from wealthy backgrounds ang good schools are the adults with good jobs or big houses in the country. The working class kids have grown up to be working class adults. That was pretty much the thesis of the project in the first place and at times, the filmmakers' dogged pursuit of their point turns a big suspicious searchlight on their methods: editing, questioning, and so on. But 35 Up brings up so many more interesting questions about these people, about the process of growing up, and, not least, about the filmmakers and their impact on these peoples lives that this project seems to have a life of its own that can't be controlled or predicted. 35 Up is too long, but it's hard to second-guess Apted as far as what should be left out. The difficulties of putting 42 Up together are likely to multiply geometrically. Speaking generally, the lives of these people seem to have gone according to plan, but that becomes a minor point. We see the children and hear about their dreams of the future, then we see their future and what's most striking is the process of adaptation, of acceptance. It's impossible to see these lives without comparing them to our own and to recognize our own compromises. Most people will feel the start of tears at unpredictable points in this movie. They come from compassion and sympathy in the truest sense of those words -- we identify with these people living their lives as best as they can.

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