Our big year-in-review issue hits the street on Thursday, December 25. I know you can’t wait, and neither can I, so every weekday until then I’ll be writing about one of my favorite films to premiere in Chicago in 2014. Number nine on my list is Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday.
One of the most talked-about movies to hit Chicago in 2014 was Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which follows a Texas family over 12 years as the main character progresses from first grade to college; Linklater shot the movie periodically from May 2002 to October 2013, using the same actors, and the spectacle of little Ellar Coltrane maturing from age seven to 19 over the course of three hours won Linklater an avalanche of awestruck press. One of the least talked-about movies to hit Chicago in 2014 was Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday, which follows an English family over five years as the father (John Simm) serves out a prison term and the mother (Shirley Henderson) struggles to raise their four children alone. Like Linklater, Winterbottom (The Trip, 9 Songs, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) shot his movie periodically in real time, capturing the growth of the children over five years, yet in contrast to Boyhood, which wound up being mostly about its own process, Everyday is a sharply focused story about the preciousness of each moment.
In keeping with the title, Winterbottom sticks to the quotidian: the movie opens with an alarm clock bleating in the darkness at 4 AM, and continues with the mother, Karen, dragging the kids out of bed. The children (played by four siblings and using their own given names) dress, eat their cereal, and brush their teeth. Karen leaves the two girls—Stephanie, the oldest child, and Katrina, the youngest—with a neighbor, while she and the two boys—Robert and his younger brother, Shaun—board a bus in their native Norwich, connect with a train into London, and catch a second bus out to the prison where the father, Ian, is incarcerated. Winterbottom never specifies Ian’s offense, but from his doting behavior with the boys, one gathers that he never expected to be separated from them like this. When their visit ends, he looks longingly after his family as a guard frisks him, and once he’s back in his cell, all he can do is stare at the photos of them pinned on his wall over his bunk. Winterbottom repeats this scene after every visit, but no matter how often he does, it’s still just as painful.
Not much happens in Everyday, yet the movie maintains a certain amount of tension for all of its 90 minutes, because the longer Ian is away from his children, the greater the possibility that he may never be reintegrated into their lives. Katrina cries when she has to visit the prison and falls silent when her father tries to talk to her on the telephone; Robert turns into a troublemaker at school, the kind of boy who might slip into a life of crime someday. When Ian has served enough time to be furloughed, he and Karen slip away from the children to make love, in scenes that are both ordinary and powerfully erotic. Yet Karen is lonely, and after a few years Ian’s friend Eddie starts hanging around the house, playing with the kids, and gradually usurping his place in the family. When Ian returns home for the first time on furlough, the cake Karen and the kids present to him has four candles on it, one for each of his birthdays they’ve missed. Everyday reminds you again and again that life, like those cheap little candles, can burn down to nothing in no time at all.
10. Cheap Thrills