Michael Winterbottom’s latest film, Everyday, is pure slice-of-life cinema, having the appearance of being shot on the fly and without permits. Production took place over a 5-year period, in which the characters – specifically the four young children at the center – change before our very eyes. The children’s father (John Simm), is in prison, and much of Everyday’s drama consists of the monotony of the children, with their mother (Shirley Henderson) going to see him – both inside the prison and on occasional day visits – over these five years, building up to his eventual release, and the inevitable tensions that come with that. In sharpening his focus on the mother, however, Winterbottom makes it clear that though she is not incarcerated, her predicament is no less monotonous, fleeting between visits to the prison, school and work, without having much time for herself or to enjoy her children.
Above all else, Everyday feels authentic, with these four exceptional children delivering some of the most astonishingly naturalistic performances you’re like to see this year or any other. Their phone calls to their father are especially devastating, but we’re also given an opportunity to laugh at their priceless zingers, the kind that only kids can come out with. The passage of time Winterbottom utilises is meanwhile less of a gimmick than one might reasonably imagine; it brings about small, gradual changes in the children’s faces and personalities, a more subtle engagement than one would anticipate.
The relationship between the husband and wife, meanwhile, spins on the axes of possessiveness, particularly sexual; the raw scenes in which we observe them being physical, unlike his misguided 9 Songs, riffs palpably on something deep-seated and heartfelt. These scenes only compound Winterbottom’s authentic depiction of a fractured family unit struggling to stay afloat, seemingly often against its own will once certain revelations come to light.
Sure, like Winterbottom’s other hyper-realist films, it succumbs to the occasional spell of incoherent mumbling, but this is ultimately a small price to pay for the intimacy that such an approach generates, boosted by an emotive – if occasionally overly earnest – score. On the whole, this is a touching film that will fill your heart, an affable kitchen sink drama distinguished by astonishing turns from the kids Michael Winterbottom watched grow over five years.
This article was first posted on October 25, 2012