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.