63 Up (Michael Apted, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
Humans don’t tend to be a reflective species. The long-running British documentary Up series, however, forces its subjects to be exactly that, catching up with its several subjects every seven years for the past 56, now finding them at age 63, and asking them to look back at their lives both backward and forward in equal measure. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime idea that has come around in nine installments as of yet, and this one just happens to be one of the finest.
The latest in the series is tailored with a specific structure that is readily accessible to even those who have never previously heard of the series. While I believe this makes the documentary less effective as a study of any specific given age, it works well to answer the documentary’s central question: is one’s core being already formed as a child? Once you get past the marvel of 63 Up’s premise, at once both staggering and simple in design, it is even more staggering how simple it is to become fully immersed in these individuals’ lives now and before.
Although this edition brings new insight into the participant’s view of modernizing British society, encompassing everything from millennials to Brexit, its political examination remains fairly superficial, similarly acting more as a survey of the baseline differences within the perspectives of those of different class levels, rather than providing developed commentary on any single issue. This works well, however, to comment on the liberalization of British society and how the perspectives and abilities of individuals are a direct result of their levels of wealth as youth and adults. And many of its most touching stories, those of a woman who created a mobile library and a man who went from being a popular, beloved child to being a struggling, rural-living man still searching for meaning, are enhanced by its perspective on the British class system.
As much time as 63 Up looks back, it forces you to look forward, making you question where you may find yourself seven years from now. By then, I hope there is a 70 Up to look forward to. And in this, 63 Up finds its true strength, empowering one’s quest for self and societal betterment through the experiences of others.