56-Up: Michael Apted’s Latest Chapter in Unique Film Journey

The latest chapter in Michael Apted’s epic series, 56 Up, is modest in goals, unsurprising in concerns, and rather upbeat compared to the former chapters.

The subjects express frankly their hostile feelings about the “Up” series itself — but also about their being satisfied with their lots in life.

The mixed reactions are a combined, complicated result of aging, resignation, or happiness.

56 Up feels like the cinematic version of a sprawling family reunion.  Many of the protagonists are now on second marriages, with their own adult children mostly successful.

Bruce, the baby-faced late bloomer whose kids are still young, watching them snuggle into a tent during a camping trip is a funny moment.

Even Neil, the series’ most troubled character, who spent his young adulthood homeless or squatting, is now functional as a small-town politician and minister.

With their paunches, balding heads and resigned temperaments, “56 Up’s” subjects often succumb to cliches.

The anxieties about money, health, children, work and death that define much of “56 Up” are ordinary and universal, as are the feelings of joy and pride at living meaningful lives.

The filmmakers interweave effectively materials from past interviews to bring the audience up to date, especially those unfamiliar with the previous segments.