Michael Winterbottom's poetic-realist prison drama is deserving of a cinematic release
Shot intermittently over a five-year period, writer-director Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday is explicitly concerned with the passing of time. Ian (John Simm) is serving a jail sentence for an unspecified crime, and he receives visits from his wife Karen (Shirley Henderson), who is bringing up their four primary school-age children (two boys and two girls) in north Norfolk.
Winterbottom’s script, co-written with Laurence Coriat, isn’t interested in why Ian is in prison, although there are indications that his five-year stretch is narcotics-related. Eschewing melodrama, this low-key film instead explores the impact of physical and emotional separation upon this particular family. The most significant character turns out to be Karen rather than Ian: we follow her quotidian routines of taking the kids to and from school, meal-times, and long journeys on buses and trains to visit her husband.
Although Everyday has already been shown on Channel 4, it deserves its cinematic release, thanks to its lingering, poetic-realist images of uncluttered Norfolk landscapes and to Michael Nyman’s yearning score. As with In this World and 9 Songs, Winterbottom is working somewhere between the traditional poles of fiction and documentary, by casting four real-life siblings as Ian and Karen’s youngsters, and by shooting in their actual house and in authentic prison environments. The film’s opacity however is both its strength and its weakness, making one think of Hitchcock’s quote that ‘Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.‘ Prison-movie clichés are neatly sidestepped here, with a wary politeness marking the interactions between guards and inmates. Yet key details fail to ring true, not least the family’s lack of money worries, whilst pivotal moments such as the revelation of a marital affair to a partner feel oddly underwhelming.
Selected release from Fri 18 Jan.