Neorealist Tradition from the Heart: Michael Winterbottom’s "Everyday"

in 23rd Stockholm Film Festival

by Florian Vollmers

Grabbing poetic realism by its roots, Michael Winterbottom’s new feature ”Everyday” is largely improvised by non-professional actors. It has a classic soundtrack which expresses the characters’ feelings at an almost unbearable emotional pitch. By combining exemplary techniques of cinematic storytelling with an exceptional use of real settings and the effects of time passing, the notorious director presents a rare and richly glimmering jewel.

Although ”Everyday” was met at the festival by enthusiastic audiences and won the FIPRESCI Prize, Winterbottom’s latest film was produced for television and premiered in the UK on Channel 4 on November 15 2012. On the big screen, the feature premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on 3 September 2012, and then screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Winterbottom and his writer Laurence Coriat tell the story of four children and their mother who is separated from their father. Ian (John Simm) is in prison for drug-smuggling, while the mother, Karen (Shirley Henderson), has to bring up the family on her own. Every couple of weeks, the mother and children take a trip to a Norfolk prison to see their father. Later on, Ian gets permission to leave prison and spend one day with his family. In showing the fragility and value of these short moments, ”Everyday” reaches an emotional peak and represents the climax of Winterbottom’s cinematic talent. There is nothing more to say, no action or over-the-top drama – just the simple but moving comprehension of the brevity of happiness in life.

Winterbottom wanted to show the effects of the physical changes of aging, so he shot ”Everyday” over a period of five years. The years in prison are reflected in the faces of the young actors who play Ian’s children, as they grow up: an effect which is stunning and simple at the same time. Michael Nyman’s score is reminiscent of Georges Delerue’s most touching baroque imitations, and by bravely connecting traditional issues to documentary camera work and the real effects of time, ”Everyday” puts itself in a class with Roberto Rossellini’s best neorealist classics.

”Everyday” is not shocking but highly affecting, since the focus is on how enforced separation – whether through prison or other circumstances – affects the viability of a young family. It is a topic everybody can relate to. For its moving depiction of a family’s struggle for happiness and its daring conception of everyday challenges in today’s Europe, Winterbottom should be praised for delivering one of the most stunning films of the year. The film’s detailed drawing of the characters, its breathtaking use of time – in shooting and in depicting the characters’ development – and its sublime use of music make it an outstanding contribution to contemporary European film art.

Edited by Lesley Chow