So for his latest trick, it’s perhaps no surprise that Winterbottom has taken on another interesting experiment -- this time a sprawling family drama set over five Christmases in rural Scotland. Commissioned by Channel 4 and shot in two week periods over five years, "Everyday" employs four real-life siblings (Shaun, Katrina, Stephanie, and Robert Kirk) to play the sons of Karen (Shirley Henderson) and Ian (John Simm), her MIA husband, and chronicles the life of this family literally watching the children grow up in front of the camera.
Karen does odd jobs to survive (retail work, bartending) and the kids attend school and lead relatively normal lives aside from the monthly visits to prison. However, the distance and pain of separation actually gets worse in the later years when Dad is given permission for extended day and then weekend visits with the family. These times are loving, celebratory and welcoming, but going back to daily grind of separated life is deeply painful for everyone involved. Dad is back in their lives and everyone is happy, but when reality creeps in, the abrupt disconnection from renewed family life is emotionally brutal.
Documentary-like with an observational and patient eye (perhaps too patient), “Everyday” is long, perhaps too long. At two hours, the picture is slow paced with again, seemingly minor stakes, but Winterbottom’s composure pays off in emotionally rewarding dividends. Doubly interesting is that the film was commissioned originally as a look at the prison system, but Winterbottom’s understated examination of this subject goes far beyond.
Perhaps too preoccupied with the mundanity of “Everyday” daily life, this is part of the point. Winterbottom is exploring the daily grind of adulthood and parenthood and how it weighs down the soul, and exhausts us. Though some audiences will just feel the fatigue. Perhaps unsettling to some is the lack of practical struggles Karen faces. Most single moms raising four children on what couldn’t be more than a shoestring budget would likely go crazy. But the picture chooses to portray Karen’s struggle in a more quiet and slowly eroding manner.
Practically speaking, “Everyday” faces an uphill climb with accessibility and it’s likely going to land with a small arthouse distributor, or if it’s lucky, someone like IFC Films. But while not as involving as it could be to mainstream audiences, Winterbottom’s picture still feels like an important project worth making, an interesting experiment and an emotionally resonant film that should sit well with patient viewers and cinephiles. [B]