49 Up

The latest in the Up series of films which, beginning with 1964’s Seven Up!, has traced the lives of up to 14 English kids from age 7 to infinity. Currently, the 12 remaining participants are 49 years old, and we get to watch as they transform from darling little moppets who say things like, “It’s good to pay for school; otherwise they’d be very nasty and crowded, and the poor people would come rushing in,” to balding, bloated lawyers who say things like, “People like us don’t have very much to say that’s very interesting.” Which is precisely what makes this film so interesting: It’s about truly ordinary people who don’t even have some extraordinary event in their lives to give it a narrative quality. Somehow, their lives’ lack of story makes them all seem tragic, even, and maybe especially, when they’re most content. The Up series will no doubt stand as either the greatest documentary project of all time or the instigator and paradigm of our narcissistic and neurotic need to record each and every meaningless element of our lives. Or maybe both.

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