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this review originally appeared as part of our #tiff12 coverage


Every day seems a little a longer… – ★★★★

Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday is not going to be for everyone. The man responsible for an incredibly diverse twenty features in twenty years (24 Hour Party People, 9 Songs, The Killer Inside Me and The Trip to name but a few) has put together a slow, thought-provoking film which sets out to explore how a family exists and survives when a parent goes to prison.

The always watchable John Simm plays Ian, a man serving out a five-year sentence in London for drug-related offences. His wife Karen (the excellent Shirley Henderson) is the woman tasked with keeping it all together at the family’s home back in rural East Anglia. The couple have four children, portrayed by real-life siblings Shaun, Katrina, Robert and Stephanie Kirk.

The film’s “gimmick”, for want of a better word, is that Winterbottom somehow convinced his cast, crew and financiers to allow him to only check in and film a few scenes every six months for five years. Over this time we see the years taking their toll on Henderson and Simm’s faces and see the cracks forming in their characters’ relationship. Of even more benefit is the fact that we effectively grow up with these four children and observe how they connect with a father they only see once a month.

Winterbottom’s knack for getting the best of actors is in play again as his loose script outline pushes for a lot of improvisation from his cast. This mean all of the prison scenes come across very naturally, with the use of repetitive, almost forced, conversation topics about everyday daily routines being the primary thing that concerns Ian – “how is school?”, “are you being good?” etc. The contrast between these prison visits and both parties’ natural lives – in a cell for Ian and in school/work/home for his family – is stark and leaves you wondering what value the prison system really has.

Midway through the film the prison visits evolve into day releases that gift the family with some time together in a new environment and give us as an audience the chance for a reprieve from too much prison action. Throughout the film Michael Nyman’s score kicks in at the end of most of the “check-ins” and you wonder just how much has been achieved or advanced since we last spent time with the family. But then again, that’s probably a question that a lot of people ask themselves everyday so it’s all probably a deliberate tactic by Winterbottom to give us this sensation. In a clever move the filming equipment evolves through the film too, with shooting starting on small HDV cameras and then finishing up on 35mm digital equivalents, though the effect of this in terms of showing the passing of time is negligible.

All in all, a strongly put together portrait of a family battling a crisis. It feels as much like the ITV “7up, 14up” series as it does any of the director’s recent films, which is a credit to his versatility and the ability of his cast to appear natural. People may struggle with the simple story and structure, but really this just feels like Winterbottom giving an audience a chance to sit in with a family trying to make everything feel OK again.

UK  /  Directed By: Michael Winterbottom  /  Written By: Michael Winterbottom, Laurence Coriat  /  Starring:  Shirley Henderson, John Simm, Shaun Kirk, Katrina Kirk, Stephanie Kirk, Robert Kirk  /  94min  /   Drama  /  Release: 18 January 2013 (Ireland, UK)