(First published 4th December 2012)
Everyday is a film by Michael Winterbottom, which premiered recently on Channel 4. Despite its absence from cinemas, it manages to retain as much – if not more – of the magnificence and beauty of anything the Silver Screen currently has to offer. Its moments of mesmeric theatricality come not from narrative or visually extravagant spectular, but from the simple, poignant touches that gently tap against the insides of your soul.
The film follows one family over five years as they deal with the separation from the father, Ian (John Simm), who is completing a lengthy stint in prison for an unidentified crime (a lack of specifics that I really quite enjoy). Meanwhile, mother Karen, played by the marvellously versatile Shirley Henderson, struggles to independently support and nurture their four children as they mature without the influence of their incarcerated patriarch. The focus doesn’t lie as much on the overworked subject material of an average Joe imprisoned, but more so on how his family responds to such long-term detachment, especially with the children in their formative years.
Everyday is shot in real time, filmed intermittently over the course of five years. What this produces is a deliciously realistic portrayal of the growth of the family – and not just physically, although this is a compelling feature. The children are played by four siblings, meaning that the chemistry between them is also genuine and natural, this chemistry only bolstered by the largely improvised dialogue and the setting of their own family home. As the family sit around the early-morning breakfast table and eat their cereal, it feels as though we have truly been granted a snapshot into a familiar family home, and it is moments like this throughout the film that lend it its charm.
The course of this five year period is tracked subtly but effectively. Winterbottom uses events such as Christmas to delicately remind viewers that another year has passed, and with Ian at the other end of a phone line, his distance is sorely felt. The children’s school uniforms change as they advance in their school life, showing that it is even the small modifications that Ian misses out on. These cunning reminders work so well, as you find yourself doing a double take at the sudden realisation that the youngest child has tripled in size, tying in with that old but true cliché that the little’uns sure do grow up fast. Apparently, you can blink and miss it, so what the heck happens if you’re in jail for five years?
The ending sequence is one that spoke to me perhaps the most, and I feel that I can talk about it freely because the lack of much narrative means that there aren’t really any spoilers to be shielded against – it’s not one of those films. Needless to say, Ian is eventually released, and as the scene draws to a close, the reunited family run onto a vast beach. There is a quiet and peaceful manner to the scene, as the waves lap on the shore and seagulls caw in the distance, but what interested me most was that I wasn’t washed away with optimism. Instead, I was reminded of that famous final scene of The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959), when Antoine stands on the beach. This is a moment he has long been dreaming of, but when it finally comes it almost appears as though he doesn’t know what to do. The family are presented in a similar way; they have waited five years for this reconciliation and, indeed, they are elated. However, I can’t help but feel that after the credits roll, the family may actually struggle more so than they had before. Happiness and hope are never guaranteed forever, and as they settle back into the monotony of daily life the novelty may wear off to make way for the hardships of re-settling. A lot can change in five years, and it is left slightly ambiguous as to whether or not the family can survive this notion.
Those familiar with Winterbottom’s previous work may be aware of the likes ofWonderland, the tone and pace of which I feel I can easily attribute also to Everyday. This is not only thanks to the use of the powerfully rousing music by Michael Nyman, nor is it solely due to Winterbottom favourites, Henderson and Simm, and their stunning performances. The true magic of each comes from the fact that both employ cinema as a realistic tool, meaning that an hour and a half seems to float by without much really happening in terms of narrative – much like real life. This may not be a style favoured by everyone, but I think it is the perfect way to illustrate the nuances of human existence and interaction, which is subtle, slow-moving, and often mundane. We watch Karen and her children ride on buses without saying a word, we are there with them on the school run, we are sat at their dining table as they reluctantly eat shepherd’s pie, all of which are interesting and touching because they are true to life and surprisingly full of detail.
There is something amazing that is sparked when the tedious monotony of everyday life is blended with a medium as spectacular as cinema, which is a fusion that I believe should never be underestimated.