So goes the Jesuit maxim, and the inspiration for the documentary series, Seven Up! For those who didn’t read A.O. Scott’s 2004 send up and subsequently watch six installments in three months, Seven Up! is an incremental documentary series that features a dozen or so of the same English children at seven, 14, 21 and on and on. For the most part, the Jesuits are right, and not just about the importance of education. At 49, the subjects of this film are much like they were at seven.
The series has some of the voyeuristic aspects of Facebook in the sense that you watch people grow up from a distance. But the documentary isn’t just pictures of old camp friends drunk in Cancun. Each installment is an intimate portrait of someone you’ve sort of known since they were seven, and I’m looking forward to catching up with them at 56.
I just came back from a Bat Mitzvah in Long Island, and I realize that extended family is kind of like this documentary. Every holiday, death or wedding, whichever comes first, you’re reintroduced to people you’ve been seeing every six months all your life. That repetition gives the relationship meaning. I have cousins I remember as pregnancies, and it’s hard not to be curious about how they’ll turn out. If only all family gatherings were as pleasant and easy as seeing a movie on a rainy day.