The Jesuits have a saying: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” And in a fascinating series of documentaries called Up, this is precisely the premise — except that there are no Jesuits involved.
The series begins in 1964. (At this point it’s called Seven Up!) We meet fourteen real-life seven-year-olds from the UK. They come from the city, the country, the suburbs. They hail from all over the socioeconomic spectrum. There are boys and a few girls. We hear them talk about their lives so far, what they like and dislike, the world around them, school, what they hope to do in the future.
There is Andrew, from a wealthy family, who proudly declares that he reads The Financial Times and plans to attend Cambridge someday. Then there is Tony, more of a middle-class boy, who wants to be a jockey when he grows up. There are Jackie, Lynn, and Sue, who all attend the same elementary school in a working-class neighborhood; their commentary on seven-year-old existence is priceless. And there are nine other children, each with their own quirks and dreams.
Since then, every seven years these same fourteen Britons have had their lives documented on camera. Do their lives turn out as they expect? What influence does their upbringing have on their youth, their careers, their relationships?
The result is engrossing entertainment (the original reality TV!) and a profound education.
So, is the Jesuit saying true? You’ll have to watch the Up Series and see for yourself.
(The DVD boxed set, containing the first six episodes (ages 7 through 49), is available to check out. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have 56 Up, from 2012.)