21 and Up (1977)

This is the third part of the UP Series, directed by Michael Apted.  The series started with Seven Up in 1964 and then Seven Plus Seven in 1970. 

It’s an intriguing series to watch because you see fourteen children from different socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK, whose lives are tracked in increments of seven.  It’s interesting to see how your own predictions for them are right and wrong.  And, it gives you a very peripheral glimpse into the ways in which we are divided up based on notions of money and social class, and the opportunities present as a result. 

I feel like I can relate to what many of these individuals have experienced over the 14 years since they were first documented as seven year olds.  Some have met the expectations of their social class, and some have fallen way below what they could have accomplished.  Neil stands out as the 21-year old who becomes homeless (well, he’s “squatting” in an apartment), despite his lower middle class upbringing and having been given the opportunity to go to Aberdeen.  Suzy also:  she appeared to be perhaps from the wealthiest family, but at the age of 21 she was living a bit of a high-class vagabond life–traveling and going to secretarial school instead of university.  At 21, she didn’t seem overly concerned with the idea of a career or anything else.  But, I suppose her wealth allowed her the comforts of that lifestyle. She reminds me of a Jane Austen character; perhaps Miss Bingley from Pride & Prejudice.  Maybe that’s too harsh.

I think many of us struggle with expectations and opportunities we’re given:  do we continue to do things just because they’ve been provided for us or because we’ve “earned” them?  Or do we strike out into unidentified territory and do what’s comfortable for us, despite our socioeconomic plusses and minuses, or the availability of opportunities? 

I’m looking forward to watching the rest of these because so far they’re up to 49 and Up.

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