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Movie review: '56 Up'

Posted 3:24pm on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013

Unrated (brief strong language); 143 min.

Like an old friend whose mere memory brings tears, the greatest cinematic experiment in sociology and psychology ever attempted returns to theaters with 56 Up. Every seven years, a new installment of the "Up" series reminds us of our mortality even as we see the years pass for the British subjects of these films.

The world met them in 1964 in Seven Up!, 14 children representing what was then a pretty broad sample of British society -- poor East End tykes, orphans, a child of mixed race, a country boy and the posh-accented scion of landed gentry and the professional classes.

Every seven years we see how Jackie and Lynn, Tony, Suzy, Symon, Neil and the others have changed -- how the attitudes and personalities they expressed as talkative 7-year-olds have manifested themselves in adult life.

The psychology of the piece comes from the candid nature of the questions, then and now. Kids, then adults, talk about their concept of love, happiness, success, their worries, fears and hopes. The sociology comes from the way Britain has changed over their lives -- a vast influx of immigrants that prompts Tony, the taxi driver, to make intemperate remarks. Interviewer-director Michael Apted wonders if he's racist. But he lets Tony explain himself -- the hardship of economic competition from that influx.

Apted, involved with the series from the start, went on to make Coal Miner's Daughter, a Bond film, action pictures -- a pretty solid career in the movies. But this is what he will be remembered for, prying, interrogating and charming these kids-turned-adults every seven years, patiently pulling together confessional interviews that paint wonderful portraits of people through the long course of their lives. He forces them, and us, to take stock every seven years. Not a bad idea for anybody.

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-- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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