No one has died yet. That's the good news. The bad news is that this seventh chapter of the landmark 7 Up documentary series, which is chronicling the entire lives of several ordinary Britons, may well be the final entry. To hear the series' long-time director Michael Apted tell it, the patience, personal attention and constant persuasion needed to convince the film's subjects to sit for their psychological portrait every seven years means the series is not likely to survive beyond him. He will be 72 when it comes time to do 56 Up. When it does finally come to an end, this series will be hailed as a crowning achievement of cinema – one that stretches the muscles of the medium in a way that only a handful of other projects have. Originally conceived as an indictment of the British class system (half the children chosen were poor and half rich) it has grown beyond its original mandate into a visceral study of humanity itself, capturing its frailties, potential and inexorable motion towards the finish line.
None of the children, who were first filmed in 1964, tumbling on a playground and offering cheeky commentary on any subject you like, have gone on to have noticeably 'big' lives. One became a wig-wearing barrister in the British court system, and seems perpetually embarrassed that he doesn't have anything dramatic to report to us. Another became a professor and moved to America, causing his British accent to be mostly eroded away. Another became an Australian at an early age. The poor kids have by and large become lower-middle class adults and remain within shouting distance of the Eastend neighborhoods where they were born. One notable exception is Tony, the scrappy hustler who dreamed of being a jockey as a child and later settled into the disappointment of being a taxi driver. Vocally dissatisfied with the demographic changes that have taken place in the Eastend since his boyhood, Tony and his wife have staked a claim in a Little England area of Spain. "It's 96 percent English here," he defiantly tells us.