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56 Up (DVD Review)

13 Jul, 2013 By: Ashley Ratcliff

First Run
Box Office $0.7 million
$29.95 DVD
Up Series $79.95 DVD
Not rated.

The latest installment in the “Up” series, 56 Up continues to chronicle the lives of the then-7-year-old children introduced to the world via the Seven Up documentary of 1964.

It’s an ingenious concept really, to follow around a group of 14 children from a diverse cross-section of Britain and track the progression of their lives with a new documentary every seven years.

As one would expect, time takes its toll on these subjects in ways big and small, and it’s downright sobering in some instances to see these young, optimistic children with no sense of the impossible transform into hardened adults as the years wear on.

Perhaps the most affecting is the vignette on Neil, whose tumultuous life experiences have brought the drama to the docuseries. Once homeless and suicidal, Neil now is a lay minister who is involved in his local government. As seen in the previous films from the series, the perpetual bachelor always told himself he’d never have children and his loneliness is palpable. Viewers will empathize with Neil and wonder just where things went wrong when the present is juxtaposed against black-and-white footage of the jovial schoolboy. It’s heartbreaking.

But others, who have had their share of upsets, have a positive resolve to their stories. For example, Symon, who was raised in a children’s home, grew up without a father, experienced the death of his mother to cancer and divorced — all by the age of 35 — and as a result declined participation in the 35 Up film. However, 56 Up shows Symon remarried and becoming a foster parent, which is inspiring to see some good come from his life’s struggles.

It’s easy to see how viewers develop a certain fondness for these people with whom they have seen grown up on film.

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