Back to the highly recommended Up series, and the latest iteration, 56 Up. As a recap, the Up series is the perspective on the lives of 20 Britons; World in Action interviewed children at age seven, and every seven years thereafter, asking about their dreams and goals and their takes on love and romance and their perception of their worlds. The voiceover at start of every documentary concept was the Jesuit maxim: “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.”
You know what? The maxim rings true.
Also apparent, although not noted by reviewers and critics, was how similar they all were to each other at age 14. Sullen and shy, avoiding questions and the camera, they were all in the grip of awkward, sullen adolescence. Even the extroverted Tony would not make eye contact with the interviewer, the now-famous director Michael Apted. Nicholas Hichon, the shepherd’s son destined to study physics at Oxford and become a professor of electrical engineering, drew his knees up and buried his head in his forearms. The patrician Suzy faces away from the camera, as does Tony. The three East End girls, always grouped as a trio by the producers, were giggly and fidgety, but engaged with each other in response to the interviewer’s question, maybe due to a respect for authority as well as a feeling of safety in numbers.
The pugnacious Tony from London’s East End morphed into a “hands-on” grandfather, never losing his ebullience and lust for life. The shy, uncertain Paul from the orphanage finds a happy adulthood in Australia with the likable Susan and a happy family, but still admits to self-esteem problems. The elegant, refined Suzy remains so, an upper-class mother in her country home. Even Neil, despite battling mental health problems his entire life, seems to have found himself by serving in public office and in the church.
Some at 21, some at 28, some much later, but as they reached adulthood, the essence of their seven-year-old selves.