Here is the latest installment in an ambitious documentary series tracing the lives of more than a dozen British men and women in seven-year increments. Inspired by the Jesuit maxim, "Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man," filmmaker Michael Apted (Coal Miner's Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist, Nell) zeros in on his subjects who are all experiencing middle age. He skillfully unites new interviews with clips and footage from previous segments starting with the initial one in 1964. Although three of the original number have dropped out of the project, those who share their lives with us are a varied lot including a cabbie, a married woman who has found fulfillment counseling the bereaved, and a University of Wisconsin physicist.
Class, wealth, and social status have influenced the destinies of this mixed group. They face the universal challenges of regret over roads not taken, grief over the deaths of their parents, the emotional traumas of divorce, and the joys of raising children. Three of the most touching interviews are those with Bruce, an upper-class youth who dreamed of becoming a missionary and now teaches minority students at a Catholic High School for girls; Jackie, a single parent raising three kids and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis; and Neil, a troubled man who has rebounded from homelessness, warded off mental illness, and is now active in local politics in London.
Hats off to the dedication, patience, and creativity of Michael Apted who has convinced us that the journey of every human being is eminently edifying and compelling.