(Michael Winterbottom, 2012)
A lovely study of the quotidian stresses and agonies of a family separated by the imprisonment of the husband and father (John Simm), Everyday is moving and beautifully observed.
Director Michael Winterbottom has long had the rare ability to combine an almost verite sense of the real world - a sometimes drab place, without glamour or artifice, filled with normal people living casually uneventful lives - with an eye for the fleeting poetry of the now, for the beauty in a dull room barely lit through a smeared window, or the splash of energy on a city street, and that is powerfully in evidence here.
Winterbottom shot Everyday at intervals over a five year period, and Simm and Shirley Henderson (as his wife, struggling with raising their four children alone) are surrounded by non-professionals, and indeed, part of the unique joy of the film is watching the four children grow up over the course of the story. That sense of the passage of time, so often a phoney construction in cinema, here has the sting of reality visible in the maturing faces of its actors.
This is essentially a love story rooted in the routines and grind of family life, with the father notable mainly by his absence, and it is given a sort of intimate epic quality by the majestic landscapes of Norfolk where the family live and by an expansive, emotive Michael Nyman score. Scene after scene follows Henderson and her children engaged in the banalities of regular family life - getting up in the morning, commuting to work and school, bedtime, dinner, sunny days at the beach, supermarket shopping, and watching television. The tiny dramas of life - children staying out too late, fights in the schoolyard, a troubling flirtation from a friend which becomes an affair - are just part of the tapestry, of one thing after another, day after day after day. That is all given an added dimension in contrast with what we see of Simm's life in prison: the dull colours and harsh lighting, the extreme repetition and unbending routine, the small spaces and petty humiliations. These two worlds clash a few times - the family visit their father in prison, and he gets a couple of day release passes. Winterbottom brilliantly punctuates these sequences with the flat reality of the penal life Simm must return to afterward, and this repetitive structure takes on its own rhythm, formed from repeated shots and events - characters travelling on buses and trains and in cabs, Henderson awakening at the rude trill of an alarm clock, the fields around their house.
This film asks how can a family survive such a separation, and more piercingly, how a couple can remain in love without the traditional structures of family life to support them. This love story is odd and difficult but also tremendously moving. A couple of halting, beautiful love scenes are echoed by repeated shots of this man and woman clinging to one another, and walking surrounded by their children. In Everyday, that is a great happiness, the continued survival of the family a triumph of sorts over the world itself.