This is the first in a series of UP recaps, moving through the films from SEVEN UP through 49 UP in anticipation of the Texas Premiere of 56 UP at Stateside at the Paramount, screening Monday February 18 and Tuesday February 19. If you did your homework and watched SEVEN UP last night, scroll to the bottom of this post and be the first to correctly answer three trivia questions about the film to win two free tickets to 56 UP!
In the context of the entire UP Series, the first film SEVEN UP! serves as a foundational set of brief, frequently insightful interviews with the young people we will follow into adulthood. Viewing it with the knowledge that the kids’ entire lives are well-documented in the films that follow, you can’t help but be excited about the series and hopeful that the kids will achieve their dreams, erase their prejudices, and live happy lives.
As a film viewed by itself, SEVEN UP is somewhat different from all the films that followed. It’s less about the ongoing journey of life and more about the childrens’ views on race, class, and gender. Each of the kids has developed a unique personality all their own, and you can’t help but assume that, in the making of this half-hour televised documentary short, the filmmakers realized they had cobbled together quite an interesting bunch of youths, interesting enough to continue following long into the future.
Because the film was made with the class system in mind, the kids are essentially lumped into two groups, upper class or working class, at least until they are more individually fleshed out in the later films. Andrew, Charles, and John all attend the same pre-prep school for upper-class children in Kensington, while Suzy’s wealthy parents have sent her to boarding school. We see, in one sequence, the stark contrast between the classes as shots of Suzy gracefully practicing ballet are intercut with the working-class children rough-housing on a playground.
One of the more rambunctious rough-housers is Tony, who attends school in the historically poor East End of London, with the instantly recognizable accent to prove it. Tony will prove to be one of the more lovable subjects of the series, while Neil from Liverpool leads one of the more interesting, up-and-down lives that we will see.
You can see that the kids, despite being raised under some very rigid circumstances, are already well on their way to becoming adults with opinions and the ability to speak their minds. Although they sometimes simply echo what they’ve clearly been told by their parents (“I’m going to Cambridge.” “I’m going to Africa to help the uncivilized become more or less good.” “I think the Beatles make too much noise.”), you can see them processing the questions they are asked before they answer.
One of the wonderful things about this series is that Apted continues to refer back to clips from the previous films to provide context, so we’ll be reminded of these smiling faces frequently as we watch the kids grow old, for better or worse. All this to say: bring on 14 UP (aka 7 Plus Seven)! But why stop at 14? We have a whole weekend ahead of us, how many UP films can you watch?
Trivia: Did you watch SEVEN UP last night? If so, try your hand at the three trivia questions below. The first person to answer all 3 questions correctly in the comments section below will win two free tickets to 56 UP! (Stumped? Remember, all of the films in the UP Series are streaming on Netflix, and SEVEN UP is only 30 minutes long! So by all means, go cheat!)
1. Who has a girlfriend named Michelle who calls him a monkey?
2. What song do we see some of the children singing in Latin?
3. What career will Neil pursue if he can’t be an astronaut?