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Friday, 16 November 2012

Michael Winterbottom's Everyday: This moving family drama feels realistic if a little slow at times


It's fair to say that the majority of Michael Winterbottom's films court controversy most notably the sexually explicit 9 Songs and the incredibly violent The Killer Inside Me. His most recent TV work was the Rob Brydon/Steve Coogan sitcom The Trip however, despite it being very funny in places, it was also incredibly bleak looking at how fragile the professions of these two comedians was. Winterbottom's latest film as director Everyday was aired last night and looked at how a family were affected when their patriarch went to jail. In this film Winterbottom's realistic style was achieved by having the couple's four children played by real-life siblings who we saw grow up on screen as Everyday followed the family over a five year period. To ensure that the children didn't have to learn that many lines Winterbottom has given them their own names while at the same time he's given them two great actors to work with as John Simm and Shirley Henderson play their parents.


Everyday begins with Henderson's Karen's attempt to get her sons out of their house, which is situated in Norfolk, and go to visit their father in his London prison. These opening few scenes set the tone for Everyday as we follow every process of their day from their teeth-washing to their bus ride and their final arrival at the prison. Simm's Ian's conversations with his children are also fairly stilted as he awkwardly asks them about how they're getting on at school or later what their favourite music is. Even though John Simm is arguably the biggest star in Everyday, which is billed as a prison drama, neither he or the prison feature that regularly as this is primarily the story of what happens on the outside. The children are obviously struggling without their father most notably eldest son Robert who is getting into fights at school and sometimes has little to say to Ian during group visits. Karen is also lonely so finds solace in Eddie, a local at the pub in which she works, with the two later having an affair which extends to him visiting the house and almost acting as a father figure for the kids. After a few day visits, including one on which he stupidly smuggles hash back into the prison, Ian is finally released but the initial joy of being with his family constantly evaporates once he finds out about the affair. Winterbottom leaves us on a little bit of an ambiguous ending as the family visit their local beach, which TV fans may recognise as the one from Stephen Fry's Kingdom, and appear as if they are functioning as a unit however we are left to guess the ultimate outcome.


I believe the reason for the title of Winterbottom's film is because that it encapsulates the everyday life of this family who just happen to have to visit the man of the house in jail. There's plenty of normal moments shown in Everyday as we see the kids during lessons at school, watching the TV at home as well as following Karen's bus journeys home. Winterbottom subverts the prison drama by having the prison play only a minor role as it is what is keeping Ian away from his family home and that home does become the primary setting of Everyday. The best thing about the film though is the fact that the Kirks allowed their four children to participate in this five year project as if they hadn't I don't think it would've seemed nearly as genuine. Winterbottom didn't let the kids see any of the prisons they were filming in prior to their arrival meaning that their reactions to their surroundings were utterly realistic especially the scene in which younger sister Katrina burst out crying on one of the first visits to her father. Winterbottom is quick to point out that this is the children's story by having the camera lowered to their level so we can literally follow them around. Though all the Kirks are absolutely terrific the best actor of the four is Robert who runs away several times seemingly in protest of being dubbed the man of the house by his incarcerated father. That's not to take away anything from Simm or Henderson both of whom are utterly fantastic as he plays a man who just wants to be with his family while she plays a mother who is forced to care for her children single-handedly I think the fact that it is never revealed why Ian is in prison is a master-stroke as I was often wandering what a lovely guy like this was doing serving a long stretch inside.


Everyday isn't perfect by any means and I did feel it lagged terribly in places as he we got several interchangeable scenes with the family sitting down to have dinner while I also wasn't a fan of Ian finding out about Karen's affair with Eddie. I also found the music terribly distracting at times as it had a habit of taking you out of this realistic world and reminding you that you were actually viewing this on your TV. These are petty gripes about what was a great ninety minute drama with superb performances from both its seasoned actors and from the untrained Kirk siblings. The cinematography was great throughout and the script made Everyday seem as realistic as possible. For once I feel that all of the controversial decisions that Winterbottom made as regards this film was justified as I found Everyday to be one of the most  honest and  thought-provoking TV dramas of 2012.

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