There’s an old Jesuit saying sometimes attributed to Aristotle, “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.”
It struck the fancy of filmmaker Paul Almond, who in 1963 conducted interviews with over a dozen seven-year-old children from a cross-section of socioeconomic backgrounds for Granada Television.
The breezy, 40-minute documentary “Seven Up!” showcased some cute kids and tart questions about the rigidity of the British class system, but would hardly be remembered today had Almond’s young researcher, Michael Apted, not gone back to revisit the children seven years later, and then another seven years after that.
Apted made a habit of it for the next few decades, and now — a full 56 years since it began — the series’ ninth installment “63 Up” arrives in theaters like a reunion with old friends.
Apted and his editors always preface their interviews with scenes and snippets from the previous pictures, so in a span of several minutes, we see these subjects age more than half-a-century.
We watch eyes grow hard and bodies get soft. The walks lose a step or two while youthful belligerence gives way to something more circumspect and considered. It’s remarkable to witness — their transformation over time and both the ravages and unexpected gifts of age.
The cumulative emotional impact of the films naturally grows more pronounced with each installment, but especially hits home during this one — which the 78-year-old Apted assumes will probably be his last.
“63 Up” is playing now in select cities.
Read the story at WBUR.
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