Seven Up! is a British Documentary, which was originally released in 1964, and was directed by Paul Almond. The movie was narrated by Douglas Keay, and has a running time of 39 minutes. The movie has a cast of Bruce Balden, Jackie Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Peter Davies, Susan Davis, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas (Nick) Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Suzanne (Suzy) Lusk, Tony Walker. This is Number Seven in the ‘500 Films A Year Challenge’.
Seven Up is a series of documentary movies that are released every seven years, revolving around the lives of 14 (fourteen) individuals, from when they were 7 (seven) years of age, up to the most recent, 56 (fifty-six). I was always fascinated by the series, and it seems many British people have been caught up in the enjoyment of the series. Roger Ebert, in fact, once named the documentary series as being among his top ten films of all time. With such magnificent critique, I couldn’t help but be entranced into watching the series, beginning on 5th January, with the first entrant.
The main problem with beginning with Seven Up, is how minimal it is in comparison to future films. Future films have running times up to and over two hours, whereas this movie is merely 39 minutes long. However, as an introduction, it does very well, quickly bringing us to speed with the concept, which is ‘the seven year olds of 1964, will be the managers and workers of 2000’, and the hope to document the growing of individuals through several decades. Mentioned several times is the inspiration for the series: the Jesuit motto “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”, which is based on a quotation by Francis Xavier.
The style is very simplistic, intercutting sit-down interviews with shots of the individuals in action at school or in their everyday lives. In one instance, we see two boys roughly wrestling in the playground, and the nearby teacher lets them continue until it gets series, then sends them on their way; the methods and attitudes of people within the time is fascinating to watch, as you encompass yourself into the actions of history. The children themselves are from multiple different backgrounds, but there is the disappointment that there are only four girls, and only one non-white persona, which enforces the attitudes of the time. There is also a class difference that is noticeable, with several upper-class boys and several working class lads, representing a huge difference in outlooks and expectations. The children are asked several questions, such as:
- What is your view on fighting?
- Thoughts on the opposite sex? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What are your future plans? Marriage, Children, Work?
The different answers are interesting to view, and this is where the series begins to work best. Seeing the views of these children at 7 (seven) years old, we feel curious at their plans for 14 (fourteen), and can’t wait to find out. There are even early favorites, like the cheeky but adorable Neil, the overtly posh John, the wannabe-missionary Bruce, and a trio of grisl who are friends in Jackie, Lynn and Sue.
As a standalone movie, this documentary is nothing special. However, it feels more akin to a ‘Prologue’, setting the scene and characters, and it will be the future films we can begin to truly appreciate the excellence of this series. I enjoyed this entry, but if I didn’t already know the standard of upcoming entrants, I probably wouldn’t bother continuing.
Thumbs Up, but a simple 5/10, sets the scene, but can easily improve.
Next time, we retreat into the world of Rap Battles, as the director of L.A. Confidential works with the Slim Shady.