"The hard thing when you get old is to keep your horizons open. The first part of your life everything is in front of you, all your potential and promise. But over the years, you make decisions; you carve yourself into a given shape. Then the challenge is to keep discovering the green growing edge."
— Howard Thurman in Learning to Fly by Sam Keen
In 1964, director Michael Apted began an English documentary series featuring portraits and interviews with 14 seven-year-old children from different socioeconomic classes. He got them to open up with questions about their attitudes about life, plans for continuing their education, and what they wanted to do when they grew up.
Early on, Apted set the intention to check in with these evolving individuals every seven years to see how they were faring in their private and public lives. This film is the ninth in the series.
It could be said that Apted has created a new genre of documentary called "Life Theatre." This group shares some universal experiences, but in distinct ways. They are all very different, and they surprise us and sometime stun us with the various changes they go through. Watching them develop over the years deepens our delight in diversity and in the uniqueness of all human beings.
After filming 56 Up, Apted pointed out some of the fascinating themes he'd seen over the years:
"22 Up was full of hope, 28 was about children and responsibility, 35 was concerned with mortality when some were losing parents, and 49 has a sense of disappointment with lives maybe not fully achieved."
"Aging is a moral and spiritual frontier because its unknowns, terrors, and mysteries cannot be successfully crossed without humility and self-knowledge, without love and compassion, without acceptance of physical decline and mortality and a sense of the sacred."
— Thomas R. Cole in The Journey of Life
63 Up ends on an emotional and philosophical high note with these elders squaring off against physical impairments, death, loneliness, success, and service. Apted uses flashbacks from earlier films to remind us of his subjects' aspirations and accomplishments. They talk now about love and loss, successes and failures, staying put and moving, and the impact of the series on their sense of self.
Michael Apted's 55-year investment in this extraordinary series has touched our hearts, minds, and souls with an enriched sense of what it means to be human.