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Release Date:
9 May 1977 (UK) See more »
Director Michael Apted revisits the same group of British-born adults after a seven-year wait. The... See more » | Add synopsis »
1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Watching the Watchers See more (9 total) »


  (complete, awaiting verification)

Bruce Balden ... Himself (as Bruce)
Jacqueline Bassett ... Herself (as Jackie)
Symon Basterfield ... Himself (as Simon)

Andrew Brackfield ... Himself (as Andrew)
John Brisby ... Himself (as John)

Peter Davies ... Himself (as Peter)
Suzanne Dewey ... Herself (as Suzanne Lusk)
Charles Furneaux ... Himself (as Charles)

Nicholas Hitchon ... Himself (as Nick)
Neil Hughes ... Himself (as Neil)
Lynn Johnson ... Herself (as Lynn)
Paul Kligerman ... Himself (as Paul)
Susan Sullivan ... Herself (as Susan Davis)

Tony Walker ... Himself (as Tony)

Michael Apted ... Himself - Narrator (voice) (uncredited)

Directed by
Michael Apted 
Produced by
Michael Apted .... producer
Margaret Bottomley .... producer
Film Editing by
Andrew Page 
Sound Department
Alan Bale .... sound
John Whitworth .... dubbing
Camera and Electrical Department
George Jesse Turner .... camera operator
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
100 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The third in the series is longer than the previous two entries.See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in The 50 Greatest Documentaries (2005) (TV)See more »


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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful.
Watching the Watchers, 5 February 2007
Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach

My situation: an American watching these as films rather than TeeVee, and in sequence. I am at the leading edge of the postwar baby boomers and the people profiled here are the tail of that bulge.

So my perspectives are quite different than the audience this was created for, at least through this third installment. England before the war was the most classbound society in Europe, which is to say the then modern world. They really came close to extinction during the war and — in their own minds at least — won because every citizen set aside every social convention and pulled together as a collective. A new notion of nationhood was hovering over the isle, one modelled after America, that former colony who bailed them out, funding them during the war effort at several times their national product.

After the war, the national will was to restore British society, but the question was to what? When this was made, there was extreme introspection as to what the nature of the British (I should say English) nation should be. No nation is as publicly introspective in their art as the English. So it is no surprise that we see this in British films, from here all the way to "The Queen," which I saw recently.

So. Pick 14 children. No immigrants. No non-whites, the residue of empire. Allow one child who we only learn in this edition, has a white, "purely English" mother, the father being completely out of the picture. Start with the premise that despite some modernization, England's rigid caste system is back as Strong as ever. Pick kids from different classes. Say over and over that their lives are determined by the age of seven.


I have no idea how far Aptet wanted to take this. It seems clear that he intended at least one followup to the interviews at seven. In this film, our subjects are 21. I expect Apted to develop more subtle richness in his perspective as he goes. After all, he will be growing and who has seven years to think about the next layer of pats work, each layer sort of reinventing the earlier ones? I do expect him to evolve, but he hasn't yet. He is still banging on one theme, that of class.

Our three lower class girls are obviously stuck, doomed. Our upper class girl is a mess; for all I know she will self-destruct but do it with creature comforts handy. Our three upper class boys are amazingly repellent in different ways and I suppose that is the point.

In between, we have a smattering of individuals, all challenged, all developing into fascinating stories that carry meaning far beyond that of any individual. I wonder why I like this so.

I think there are three reasons. One is that I watch a lit of movies, some with actors that with support can create reality. But even the best of these fades when confronted with real reality. These kids are tender, not professionals. Their stories are real. We only glimpse, and because we know how full each day in our own lives are, we fill in behind what we see: pains and joys, many, many disappointments. Loves.

This is helped immensely by a basic choice Apted has made. He's decided to give us real people with real lives that we know could only be narrated by giving us the entire seven years. Its an open world he is giving us. But he has stuck to closed world narrative conventions. The only parts of the story we learn about any of these people is 1) what we saw in previous installments, generously replayed and 2) what our heroes and heroines choose to tell us in their own words.

The power of constraining the narrative this way is immense, a terrific decision. Apted rarely (it seems never) tells us for instance that so and so had a drug problem, had two abortions and so on. If the people themselves don't tell us, we don't know. I am in awe of this decision and wonder how it will play in future installments. Surely he has tons of footage that he didn't use in the earlier films that would be insightful; but if it wasn't actually broadcast, it doesn't exist.

So part of the thrill here is in watching the filmmaker's shaping of the narrative, because of course he is asking the leading questions, weaving what we get from what happened.

But there's another soap opera at work here. I mentioned that I am an American, someone who finds notions of class quaint, puzzling, offensive, illogical. So while I watch what amounts to a soap opera of 14 lives, and I watch the way a strictly cinematic story is pulled out of them, I also watch the soap opera of an alien people try to preserve these social anomalies because their person story is tied to their national one. And this interstory story is close to what life is about.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.

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