Watching a Generation of Lifetimes: The ‘Up’ Series

If you pay attention to human development, psychology, or how people’s attitudes progress over a lifetime, I urge you to check out Up –– a longitudinal documentary series from Britain, available on Netflix.

The Up-Series by director Michael Apted
Director Michael Apted interviews a group of Britons every 7 years for their entire lives.

The series follows 14 children from “startling different backgrounds” from across England. It chronicles their lives for 42 years in seven-year intervals.

This longitudinal view begins in 1963 when the children are 7 years old and follows them, in the most recent installment, to age 49. You see little children playing on the playground and then witness them enduring all life’s trials through becoming grandparents. The film makers follow the group where their lives take them including Bulgaria, Australia, Spain, and Wisconsin.

Hopes, dreams, education, marriage, children, opportunities, careers, political views, religious beliefs, social values, marital stress, illness, loss (even interviewer and producer / director Michael Apted’s bias) – all show up. First in grainy black and white, then in living color, and finally, wide-screen high def.

You can stream all episodes on any Netflix-connected device:

  • 7 Up
  • 7 Plus Seven
  • 21 Up and its successors of 7-year check-ins right thru
  • 49 Up

I strongly suggest you start from the beginning with 7 Up. It really frames the project, provides the context, and sets the foundation for the rest of the wonder that unfolds.

Warning: Once you start watching, you’re going to be hooked. Set aside a weekend for the most unusual, engrossing glimpse at the lives of an entire age cohort cutting across several classes of a society.

These extraordinary documentaries capture contentment, despair, surprise, regrets, changes of heart – all the drama of full lifetimes from childhood through middle-age. (Plus providing a window unto the institutionalized stratification of British society.)

One hopes that the series continues as it would be fascinating to see how these life patterns change or don’t as this diverse cohort moves into old age…


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