Example of the director becoming ensnared by his premise to the detriment of his own film.
Michael Winterbottom is a director who’s not afraid to fully commit himself to an idea that he likes. Whether he’s teaming up with actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for three diverse but equally funny films (24 Hour Party People, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, and The Trip) or exploring the erotic side of cinema by way of nine different songs in the appropriately titled 9 Songs, he’s a filmmaker who always seems to have the big picture in mind. His latest film, Everyday, has a similarly thought-out trick to it: it was filmed over a total of 5 years using all of the same actors. But while it’s admirable of Winterbottom to push the boundaries of conventional filmmaking with this project, it might be an example of the director becoming ensnared by his premise to the detriment of his own film.
Everyday covers a number of years in the life of a family, yet despite its expansive perspective, it doesn’t really go very far. The main thrust of action comes when the family’s matriarch (Shirley Henderson) brings her four children (played by real-life siblings Shaun, Robert, Katrina, and Stephanie Kirk) to visit their father (John Simm) in prison where he is serving a lengthy sentence for a somewhat vague crime. We witness several visits to the prison in the first half of the film, and it is interesting to see the slight variations in the family dynamics as the years go by. And by covering so much time with the same actors and using this repetition, Winterbottom seems to make some intriguing comments about how easily time can slip away if we allow ourselves to fall into routine. Many of the scenes here would not be nearly as effective if we couldn’t see that the children have visibly aged, or if he had simply recast their roles.
However, the film never fully gets past this somewhat gimmicky device. And in fact, it seems to actually impede Winterbottom from fully delving in to his younger characters; the viewer never really gets a good sense of who the female children are, in particular. There is something inherently moving in watching a child grow up and become more aware of the world around them, but a slightly meandering 90-minute movie is perhaps not the best avenue to explore these complicated dynamics.
Henderson’s character on the other hand does feel fully developed, partly thanks to the actress’ searing, rock-solid turn as a mother barely managing to hold her family together. We see the wear that time has on her face, and while I don’t think the real-life progression of time is essential to Henderson’s performance, it does enhance the experience to see her transition from the girlish young mother at the beginning of the film to the weary, fed-up voice of reason she becomes as the film goes on.
Everyday is hardly plot heavy, and while this does allow the film to meditate on its themes, it also makes it feel stagnant, even as the lives of both its characters and actors race by. Winterbottom has created a film that is startlingly honest at times, and while it may not be his best work, Everyday should stand as an interesting minor entry in his filmography.