28 Up (1984)
★★★★ / ★★★★
Suzi’s previous interview featured a chain-smoking woman, very cynical, angry, and clearly directionless about what she wants to do or become in the future. Coming from a privileged background, she appeared to be content in traveling the world and not much else. Seven years later, now twenty-eight years of age, Suzi is now married and has two boys. This segment underlines the core strength of the “Up” series: In seven years time, just about everything can change for the fourteen subjects. For the first time, I found Suzi to be highly relatable and accessible. Before, I found her to be very shallow, a brat who could have just about everything she ever wanted so there wasn’t much character there.
But not all changes are for the better. We find Neil, perhaps the most effervescent child in the first film, living off the state and renting whatever place he can find to accommodate his nomadic lifestyle. He appears to be functioning only on a survival level. Recounting his struggles is almost unnecessary; he must have gone through a lot up to this point because he looks several years older than the other subjects.
I looked at the frame of his body and could tell right away he is not healthy. He is able to answer questions but some of his responses are not completely sensical. And then comes the revelation of the condition that has afflicted Neil since he was sixteen. In the future films, my hope is that this man will have gotten the necessary help to move forward in his life.
Many of the subjects have gotten married. Perhaps this is the most crucial trend in this installment. The other is that there is a calm in all of them that was not there when they were twenty-one. It gives the impression that now they know who they are and what is important to them. Admittedly, I was less able to relate with the subjects this time around. I suppose it is because in terms of where I am in my life right now, I am closer to the mindset of someone who is twenty-one than a person who is twenty-eight.
I wished some of the spouses had less time to talk to the camera or had been shut out from the film completely. Although some of the bits shown garner some interest, I would rather have heard more from the subjects themselves. For example, Nicholas, who has since become a nuclear physicist and assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin, is already a sort of quiet subject. His wife’s personality is so big that I felt as though she overpowered his moments at times. I would have loved to have heard more about Nicholas’ attitude about leaving England because he felt as though his country of origin did not want him to pursue what he had been trained to do.
Tony continues to surprise. The less is said about him, the better. But I will say this: His story is possibly the one that warms my heart the most. I think that out of all the subjects, he probably was the one who had to fight most especially because he came from a disadvantaged background. And yet he is not bitter or angry about his struggles. I admire people who are able to create a rewarding life despite great adversity.
“28 Up,” directed by Michael Apted, is structurally different from its predecessors. Instead of allowing the stories to intertwine or blur together by jumping from one subject to another, each is given a segment. Although more organized, I found it less compelling at times. Gone are the immediate direct parallels of the subjects’ answers to surprising and difficult questions. It will require a bit of adjustment.