56 UP Review – Who are We?

Editor’s Note: Find more OVID.tv roundups here.  

Clearly middle-aged, the one-time cohort of adorable seven year-olds we first met in 7 UP, the inaugural chapter of the UP series, are now old enough and wise enough to shape their own narratives for the camera.  They are still the unique personalities we have grown with through the years. You too may agree that they are now a showcase of the infinite flavors of wisdom.

Backtracking for newbies to the UP Series and this Ovid.tv 56 UP feature, here is a recap.  In a setting that still feels like the UK is recovering from World War II, we first met a gaggle of British children when they were seven years old.  Interviewers would ask them questions about their dreams and aspirations, their ideas about the opposite sex (note: all was binary then), their families, and more. We saw them playing together and in their diverse homes—city and town, rich and poor, etc.  We re-meet these children in subsequent films—14 UP, 21 UP and so forth, until now 56 UP (though 63 UP is also made, but not yet available on Ovid.tv.)

Some might take the series as a living nature vs. nurture experiment.  Others clearly thought of it as an ongoing expose of class determinism, sexism and British patriarchy.  The series has a relatively high profile in the UK, such that the Heisenberg Principle might have come to bear on some of their lives, if not all.   East Ender Tony--whom we had first met as a high-spirited and good natured young boy who seemed to always heed rules as suggestions, and an early favorite of this writer—recounts now as a 56 year old how he once was giving Buzz Aldrin, “… the second man to ever walk on the moon” a lift in his cab, when someone came clamoring for an autograph.  How absurdly funny it was to him, that it was his  autograph, and not the astronauts that was being sought.

56 UP Is More About US

That’s but one brief moment of reflection in this film, with a sunny smile, as we have come to ever expect from Tony.  But what jumps out, at least to this writer, is that the 56ers are a sage group, able to look back at where they’ve been and sort it, file it and more- use it, to power their current day.  While earlier films in the series recounted marriages, divorces, work and redundancies, career goals, disappointments and detours, here we meet people who all seem to have found a way that is their way.  In common parlance, they have lived to tell the tale.  It’s perhaps Nick, a rural school boy turned Professor of Electrical Engineering in the US, that said it best in 56 UP. To paraphrase, Nick reflects “it’s really not so much about us in the film, but about us all.”

Indeed, any one time fellow UP series devotee will likely also note that the refrain we hear again and again in the earlier chapters, is only a brief coda in this episode—viz. “ Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man"

Not so fast the people we meet a half-century later seem to insist by their example.  Each could be Frank Sinatra crooning “.. I did it my way.”

You do not need to watch the entire series and work up to 56 UP.  Indeed, using this film as a launch point will likely enrich your experience all the more, in this writer’s opinion.  This film and the entire UP series is a top pick for any student of humanity.  If you don’t like to have your notions of class, race, and human purpose jostled, this might not be for you.


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Michael Apted, Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Peter Davies, Suzanne Dewey, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Susan Sullivan, Tony Walker

Creative Team:

Produced by
Michael Apted ... producer
Alexander Gardiner ... executive producer
Claire Lewis ... producer

Music by
Nick Lloyd Webber ... (uncredited)

Cinematography by
George Jesse Turner

Film Editing by
Kim Horton

Production Management
Helen Houston ... production manager
Laura McCombie ... production manager
Karen Stockton ... production executive

Sound Department
Tim Cockerill ... re-recording mixer
Douglas Fairgrieve ... additional sound (as Dougie Fairgreaves)
Nick Steer ... sound

Camera and Electrical Department
Rupert Murray ... additional photography
Jason Trench ... additional photography

Editorial Department
Ian Brown ... on-line editor
Neil Parker ... colourist
Daniel Ward ... on-line editor

Other crew
Michael Apted ... researcher: 7 Up
Amy Brown ... production coordinator
Cort Kristensen ... production coordinator
Jo Lewis ... production secretary
Gordon McDougall ... researcher: 7 Up
Elizabeth Schofield ... researcher and production secretary
Jacki Turner ... production coordinator

For more information and to watch the film, visit the Ovid.tv page for 56 UP.

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Images courtesy of 56 UP

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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