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The UP Series (1970-2005) - Movie Review

Growing UP in Britain

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


The UP Series (1970-2005) - Movie Review

The UP Series on DVD

© First Run Features
The unique UP Series of seven made-for-TV documentaries is like an extended family reunion for millions of curious and adoring fans.

Growing Up With The UP Series

The UP Series introduces you to fourteen British boys and girls who are seven years old in 1963. Then, in episodes shot every seven years, the series allows you to follow what happens to their lives and circumstances as they grow UP to to ages 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and, most recently, 49. You watch these kids cope with life's challenges as each reaches young adulthood and matures into middle age.

Based on the Jesuit maxim, “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man,” The UP Series began in 1963 as a one-shot documentary (directed by Paul Almond) showing how a diverse group of English seven-year-olds from different regions and socio-economic backgrounds viewed their world. It was thought to be a way to project what Britain might be like when these kids grew up to be adults in the year 2000.

Another, and presumably final, episode is scheduled to be filmed when the group reaches 56.

Catching UP

Tony the Cabby

First Run Features

You needn't have seen other UP’s to understand and become completely engaged by any of the individual episodes, including 49 Up.

Of course, it helps to know a little about the characters' personalities and backgrounds, especially since their lives lack the sturm und drang on which reality shows thrive. To bring you up to date, smartly narrated clips from previous episodes provide essential backstories for Tony the wannabe jockey-turned-cabby, Lynn the librarian, Nick the professor and the other characters--beginning with their childhood circumstances, aspirations and expectations, and following them through their teenage angst, romances, marriages, childbearing, breakups, career changes and other life events--both meaningful and mundane.

Most cast members have matured into fairly settled lifestyles. At 49, Tony is still driving a London cab, but, fed up with Britain’s economic and social policies, he’s moving his entire family--wife, kids and grandkids--to a quiet beach community in Spain. Meanwhile, Nick and his wife are trying to decide whether to leave their adopted home in the United States and move back to the United Kingdom.

People Like Us

Their lives are not the stuff of great drama--they are ordinary people like us and they experience the same small triumphs and difficulties. Their life stories are a reflection of our own. That is why it is so easy to identify with them and come to care what happens to them.

In 49 UP, they admit that the filming process has been somewhat disruptive, even quite difficult for them at times, and they explain why they've stuck with it.

Career Defining

In what has become his lifelong and career-defining project, Michael Apted, who researched the first episode while working at Granada TV, took over direction of the series with 7 Plus Seven, the second installment. His vision has sustained the series, making it TV's longest-running reality show and a unique, highly acclaimed cinematic achievement.

Before the release of 49 UP, a handsomely boxed DVD set of all previous episodes was made available to boost buzz and fill audiences in on what preceded the latest installment.

The Future

In one of the DVD’s extra features, Roger Ebert interviews Michael Apted, who expresses concern and sadness that some of the characters may decide not to appear in the next episode.

If you have been an Up fan, 49 is a welcome opportunity to visit and catch up with dear old friends. Even if you are a newcomer to the series, you will find yourself enjoying the latest episode and, like long term followers, wanting more--but you'll have to wait another seven years for the next UPdate.

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