Sunday, June 20, 2010

49 UP/ The View at Mid-Life and Beyond

I rented a really interesting DVD from Blockbuster this week called "49 UP". It caught my eye in the documentary section because it had a rave review from Roger Ebert,the film critic, who called it brillant and noted that the "UP" series of films is on his list of the ten greatest films of all time. I would recommend it highly to anyone in their 40's or beyond who is reflective and introspective about their own life and other people.

The film is by noted British director Michael Apted and is the most recent installment in a series of films which began interviewing 14 children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in 1964, when the children were each 7 years old. The first film was Seven Up, and has been followed with editions when the children became 14,21,28,35,42 and this film made in 2006 when they were each 49 years old. Apted hopes to follow up as the subjects turn 56 in three more years if he can keep all of the participants involved and hopefully everyone is still alive.

I found it fascinating when Apted flashes back to earlier conversations with each person at different ages. They open up about their lives, challenges, love relationships,parents, children, grandchildren, work, mistakes, vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams. Apted does a beautiful job of interviewing the people with compassion and insight, and in their home and lives. You get an intimate portrait of each person, as they move across their life journey.

The director set out to test the Jesuit belief that if you "show me the boy at 7, I can show you the man he will become". Apparently so, at least with the British people in this film. Flashbacks to earlier interviews become predictive, as we watch children at 7 explain what they care about, what they want out of life, and what their fears might be. Most interesting is how they are impacted by their parents choices,early family life,and goals or a lack of them.

The viewer can't help but to reflect on their own early childhood experiences, choice of life partner, career and decisions about whether or not to have children.
All these pivotal life choice moments, and then your own natural temperament and level of resilency, combining to make you uniquely you. We each end up writing our own life story, but as this excellent film reveals, we each start out with our own unique ingedients. We don't get any conscious choice of where we start out in life, and sometimes we only have a choice about our responses to our situation.

Recent research in Psychology shows that self-esteem drops from age 18 on to about age 50, when most people begin to feel better about themselves. I certainly saw this upswing in self acceptance and confidence in this film, when many of the subjects had been struggling with their lives, and less happy earlier at 35 and 42. By 49, people were more at peace. In her book, The New Passages, writer Gail Sheehy observes something similar, that the mid-life crisis is real for many people, and when our crisis in meaning is resolved, we feel better.

I am 49, so I look forward to that peace and confidence of mid-life arriving soon. I wonder if it arrives Fedex or UPS? This was in inspired storytelling project, and allows us the opportunity to introspect on how far we've come, and where we are each heading as we reset the course for the next part of the journey. I still have lots of fun and meaningful things I want to see and experience with the people I love, and I bet you do, too.

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