Michael Winterbottom is well known as an innovative and sometimes controversial filmmaker. Perhaps most known to Mancunian audiences for his recreation of the Haçienda legend in 24 Hour Party People, his latest film Everyday, examines the impact of a family torn apart by a devastatingly simple event – the imprisonment of a husband and father.
Everyday stands out through Winterbottom’s choice of narrative. Filmed over the last five years, cast and crew have resumed filming annually to show the narrative evolving – a massive undertaking for all concerned.
John Simm (Life on Mars, Doctor Who) and Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter) star as Ian and Karen, a couple struggling with the enforced separation brought on them by Ian’s incarceration as it drives a wedge between them and their four children (real-life siblings Robert, Shaun, Katrina and Stephanie Kirk). It is Henderson’s stoic performance that drives the plot. The strain of having to look after four kids whilst dealing with endlessly long trips to the prison, her ineffectual mother-in-law and the increasingly wayward children is deeply etched on her face, always threatening to break her.
Simm gives a thoughtful and withdrawn performance which aptly conveys Ian’s sense of loss and brings a sympathetic dimension to a pretty selfish character. The pictures adorning his jail cell become snapshots of a life he has denied not only himself but his children.
The real stars though are the four Kirk children. Absolutely central to the story, they feel like a more natural and rounded version of the children from Outnumbered, if no less naughty at times. It is shocking to see exactly how much they grow over the course of the story, not only in stature, but in confidence. Astonishing to think they’re not trained actors.
By making this a rural story we see Karen’s struggle to cope firsthand – she struggles for a job, struggles to get around without a car; much of our time ends up on buses. But, crucially, she is free to roam the beautifully shot Norfolk landscape; its colourful hues underpinned by Michael Nyman’s triumphant score.
Uncomfortable and raw, Everyday is a story about loss – but all this bleakness is not without hope. Winterbottom’s strive for authenticity (it’s filmed in the kids real house and school and we visit real prisons with proper staff) enhances the gritty documentary and working class feel Everyday has. In some respects, I feel it is like a modern update of themes found in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. Only here the ‘wide boy’ is incarcerated and forced to face up to his responsibilities. I certainly wouldn’t compare it to Mike Leigh’s work, but there are distinct influences from both that show up in Everyday.
Everyday will divide its audience, it is uneven and desperately slow in places but if you can look beyond this to the film’s rich emotional core, you will find something very rewarding at its heart.