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Laramie Movie Scope:
49 Up

The 7th film in a documentary series following 14 British children

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2005) The seventh film, directed and researched by Michael Apted, in a sociological series of documentaries following 14 British children, coming from a variety of social classes, from the age of seven until 49, at seven-year intervals. Reprises of scenes from the earlier films are used to show evolution of each individual as they grow old, lose hair, and get fat.

Inspired by the Jesuit maxim, "Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man," except that four are girls and the boys are not yet men when they first face the cameras. Only one of the original 14 is no longer participating in the filming.

Tony and three of the girls - Jackie, Lynn, and Susan - attended a private (meaning public-funded) school in London's East End together. Tony had ambitions of becoming a jockey (he raced horses when 15), but became a cab driver, who lives in Essex with his wife Debbie. After investing in a holiday home in Spain, the couple, who raised three children and have grandkids, expect to leave England, even though Tony calls himself a traditionalist who prefers living among his own people.

At 21 Jackie married Nick, but by 35 they'd divorced with no children. She then had a son out of wedlock before meeting Ian, with whom she gave birth to a couple more kids. Having split with Ian, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, she resides near her mother-in-law in Scotland, protective of her privacy while insisting she's turned out better than expected: "I enjoy being me." Having left the East End, now employed as a college administrator, and engaged to Glenn, Susan, married at 24, was divorced with two kids by the time she was 35; her dog is her new child. Still married after 30 years to the same man (who refuses to be on camera), Lynn, a children's librarian involved with severely handicapped children, has health problems and two grown children.

The fourth female, Suzy, grew up in a privileged home, though by 21 - anxious, chain-smoking, and cynical - she seemed far from being "happy within my own skin" by 49, still married to Rupert (since she was 22) with three children; however, she says she may bow out of further participation.

A teacher of mathematics who enjoys playing village cricket on the weekends, Bruce had been in a boarding preparatory school at seven (parents divorced), leading to Oxford; he had taught in Bangladesh and at a girls' school in the East End, before marrying Penny by the time he was 42 and raising two children.

Two boys were in the same children's home in London when they were seven. By the time he was 28, Paul, who had been a bricklayer and unsuccessful contractor, was married to Susan with two kids (their daughter attending university); at 49, uncomplaining, he's been employed in a factory for a decade, has two grandkids, and enjoys running marathons. The illegitimate son of a single white mother (and black father), Simon, who admits his neglect of getting a good education has limited his opportunities to working in a freezer room and now moving freight at Heathrow Airport, had five children with his first wife by age 28; after they divorced, he married and had another child with a black woman, who also had a child from a previous marriage; the couple have become foster parents for foreign-born children.

After getting a degree in physics, Nick left the UK for Wisconsin where as a full professor he teaches college physics in Madison; childless, he and his first wife divorced when he was 43, but he remarried an attractive blonde with her child from a previous marriage.

Three chums from a public (meaning private) preparatory school - John, Andrew, and Chris (who departed from the filming at 21) - represent the English upper crust. Having left a law firm where he had become a partner to work as legal counsel for a company, Andrew, who attended Cambridge, owns homes in London and in the country with his wife Jane and two sons: "I'm guarded about being guarded." Wed to the daughter of a former ambassador, John, a barrister considering a career in politics, from an old family with big traditions, also owns residences in London and the countryside; he and his wife devote effort to charities in Bulgaria.

Finally there is the eccentric Neil, a life-long bachelor with regrets, who at seven said he wanted to be "an astronaut or coach driver," dropped out of college, became homeless in Scotland, and wandered about the Shetland Islands in his 30s; returning to London (where he initially lodged with Bruce), he became a Liberal Democrat serving on a council before relocating to northwest England where continued running for political office while being a lay reader in his church, working small jobs, and accepting government assistance.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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