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The famous Up documentary series has been tracking a cross section of British citizenry since 1964, and for those of us who tune in every seven years to see what’s become of the lads and lassies, it’s an ideal form of family reunion (in part because we get to remain invisible). Flinty Lynn and shy Paul and tortured Neil and the rest of their comrades-in-celluloid quite literally grow before our eyes—and then ungrow all over again, called back to their 7- and 14-year-old incarnations in a never-resolving fugue of identity. The latest installation, 49 Up, finds once-solid marriages toppled, once-shaky marriages secure, and everyone living lives that look fallow only on the surface. With his usual discretion, director Michael Apted captures not just private turmoils but also larger migration patterns: East Enders retreating to the suburbs, self-made taxi drivers building homes in Spain, landed gentry floating away in hot-air balloons. What emerges more clearly than ever is the dance of co-dependency between Apted and his subjects, who more often than not, appear to regret their participation in the series. “It’s not an experience I’ve enjoyed in any way,” says Suzy. “I normally hate it,” says Simon. The brashly articulate Jackie tells Apted that the films are not “about us” but “how you see us,” before adding, with a swell of bitterness: “I don’t think you ever really expected me to turn out the way I have.” And yet here she is, here they all are, subjecting themselves once more to Apted’s hungry gaze. The series was inspired by an old Jesuit maxim: “Give me the child until he is 7, and I will give you the man.” Forty-two years later, the better epigram would be: “I wish I could quit you.”—Louis Bayard