Gov. Whitmer proposes $79B budget with record school funding, tax relief

Review: Extraordinary '63 Up' ponders aging, life's big questions

Latest installment in Michael Apted's long-running film series catches subjects as they enter old age

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

“63 Up,” the latest installment in what may be the greatest documentary project in film history, looks at age, looks at the effects of a class system, looks at nature versus nurture.

But most importantly, it looks at you. This film and its predecessors are a mirror to all.

A flashback scene from "63 Up."

Director Michael Apted (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Nell”) had just graduated college in 1964 when he decided to interview a sampling of 7-year-olds, some wealthy, some poor, some in-between. He was looking for the impact class had on lives and investigating the idea that by the age of 7 a person was pretty much formed.

That became the film “7 Up,” and Apted — now 78 himself — has returned to his subjects for another movie every 7 years since. He’s followed them through adolescence, careers, marriages, divorces, kids, failures, successes. And with “63 Up” he begins following them into old age.

For many, the “child is father to the man” cliché holds true. Spunky Tony, a would-be jockey as a child, is still spunky Tony, driving a cab but now living in an over-50's retirement complex and jogging in the woods. He’s taken some knocks, but haven’t we all? And posh Andrew, who was reading the Financial Times at 7, grew into the respected, successful barrister he’d predicted.

The lives are not uniform, but they are uniformly entrancing, made especially so by the vast archival flashbacks to earlier films. Here’s young Bruce teaching poor kids back then; here’s older Bruce after settling down teaching rich kids.

The only flaw here — and it’s more an artifact, really — is that the young Apted’s questions were formed in 1964 and can seem outdated at times. But that’s part of the whole wonderfully uneven and human package. As are we all.   

'63 Up'


Not Rated

Running time: 138 minutes

At the Detroit Film Theatre