“49 Up is more than a deeply satisfying movie,” film critic Carin Chocanos of the Los Angeles Times wrote in her review. “It’s a reminder of the wonder in ordinary lives.”
Over the past five decades, audiences in Britain and all over the world have followed along with the “ordinary lives” of Tony, Suzy and the rest of the series’ subjects. We have eagerly awaited a new installment every seven years, wanting to find out what has happened in the lives of the people we’ve watched go from schoolchildren to parents and grandparents.
Last fall, “49 Up” kicked off a successful theatrical run after its East Coast premiere at the prestigious New York Film Festival. The film played in nearly a hundred cities across the United States, receiving unanimous critical praise everywhere it went. At the end of the year, 49 Up made many top ten lists for 2006, including the Los Angeles Times’s, Roger Ebert’s, the Independent Film Channel’s and more. As the latest entry in Michael Apted’s ground-breaking Up series, 49 Up continues to influence viewers and filmmakers alike, demonstrating the unique capacity of documentary to examine life in unexpected and wonderful ways.
The series itself has had great influence, spawning a number of similar documentaries. Three Up in South Africa films have been made — 7 Up in South Africa, 14 Up in South Africa and 21 Up in South Africa. An Up series has also revisited its subjects every seven years in the former Soviet Union; the third film Born in the USSR: 21 Up was released in 2005. In Australia, acclaimed filmmaker Gillian Armstrong (Little Women, Oscar and Lucinda) documented three women she first met in 1975 when they were 14-years-old, in a series of films spanning from 1975 to 1996. And in America, a similar series of films — Age 7 in America, 14 Up in America and 21 Up in America — continue to be an ongoing project.
Michael Apted himself has created a similar series, Married in America, that follows the lives of nine American couples married at the turn of the millennium. In fact, the Up series has had such a cultural impact that in 2007, The Simpsons parodied the series in an episode called “Springfield Up.”
What will we find in 56 Up, the next installment in the series? Will Suzy quit the series, as she said she would in 49 Up? Will Neil continue to live a stable life and be involved in local politics? Will the characters continue to reflect back more than look forward? Expected to be released in 2012, 56 Up will no doubt reveal new challenges in the lives of these familiar characters.