One wonders when they're young what they're going to end up like when they're older. At the same time, when one reaches that older age, they tend to hate looking back on home movies of themselves when they were little. This is sort of the way the "7 up" series has evolved. Director Michael Apted (the suprising choice for directing the last James Bond picture) took 14 children from different backgrounds when they were 7 in 1964 and filmed their lives. He came back every seven years to see how things had progressed. I can't imagine the insight that the children had into their lives at seven to be that fascinating, but at this point, there's a lot for the participants who are left (a few have apparently dropped out along the way) to look back on. Many have them have been married or remarried and some of them have even moved out of the UK. While they were children when the first picture started, some of them are now coping with the fact that their children are moving off to college.
Apted has done something terrific in the way that the material has presented. While concentrating on a specific individual, he moves back and forth smoothly between older footage from the previous pictures and the new footage. Narration ties everything together. One young woman is shown as a rather depressed looking 21 year old, chain-smoking. She's shown becoming progressively more stable, a smile finally appearing and a group of children to look after. One gentleman had 5 kids in the meantime. One man, who was homeless found that, just when things seemed lost, he's found a job and has at least settled down into a comfortable life.
All of this is interesting...to a point. Apted has chosen to use the medium wonderfully to capture how lives unfold, but there are moments of the film that could have been edited out - at 139 minutes, the documentary goes on a little longer than it probably could have. I still believe that clips from the various films should be shown to see how these people have lead up to this point, but the pace does begin to drag at times. While an interesting piece, "42 Up" shows these people coming to terms with the events so far and settling in. I don't see what could come out of a "49 Up".
VIDEO: "42 Up" is presented in something extremely close to 1.33:1 full-frame. There seems to be only the slightest hint of widescreen bars on top and bottom. As the footage is taken from various years, the quality varies. Even some of the newest footage varies a bit from scene to scene depending on the lighting conditions and whether or not the scene is indoor or outdoor. The film as a whole never seemed entirely soft, but I didn't think it looked particularly well-defined, either.
There were some minor flaws here and there throughout the picture. Some minor speckles and marks were seen on the print used and there were also a couple of slight traces of pixelation, but nothing major. I didn't see anything in the way of edge enhancement. Colors seemed to be rather flat and subdued, but varied throughout the different years of footage - some of the latest footage had colors that looked mildly stronger.
SOUND: The stereo sound is simple and what is expected from a documentary piece. The dialogue in the interviews is easily heard and there are some background ambient sounds, but they don't interfere with the interviews.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Michael Apted. The commentary is a little bit hard to hear at times since the director has a rather low-volume voice and the audio for the film itself did sort of overshadow the comments once or twice. Still, the director is able to carry the commentary quite well, providing a great deal of information about the history of the series as well as its participants. It's a good commentary and fans of the series will enjoy the ability to find out more about how the lives of the featured folks have progressed in the eyes of the director.
also: Director's bio, coming attractions, credits.
Final Thoughts: "42 Up" is the latest effort in an interesting series, but things seem to have run their course as the participants have settled into adulthood. The DVD edition does provide a respectable audio/video presentationa nd a fine commentary.