Last Night's Viewing: Everyday, Channel 4

 

As a title, Everyday was near perfect for Michael Winterbottom's film about what happens to a family when the man of the house goes to prison. It's a term that hovers ambiguously between the reassuring and the resentful. Put it in front of the word "life" and you've got a promise of uneventful ordinariness – no drama, just the daily stuff we're all familiar with.

But it also has the seeds of a complaint within it; a sense of unvarying routine that just has to be got through, one day after another and no skipping any of them. And for a drama in which time was never simply going to pass but had to be served that was a useful wobble. You got both versions here. Scenes of comfortable domestic mundanity and the slow tick of identical days endured. Repetitions drove the point home. You don't just get up for school on one day, you do it every day. You don't just slump back disconsolate on to your bunk after one family visit, you do it every single time.

The way in which Everyday was made inevitably shaped the sense that you were watching real lives in front of the lens. Rather than cast for slowly aging children, Winterbottom decided to stretch the shoot over five years, working with four children from a real family, using an improvised script and filming in the children's own home and school. Shirley Henderson plays their mother, Karen, struggling to keep the family going while her husband Ian (John Simm) is in prison. His crime isn't specified because that's not what the film is about, but you can work out that it's serious enough for him to serve at least four years and yet not so monstrous that he isn't welcomed back to the local pub when he eventually gets out.

Winterbottom has adapted Thomas Hardy more than once in his film career and there was something of Hardy here, in the study of pinched rural lives for whom a beautiful landscape is not the stuff of a weekend getaway but may just represent a kind of obstacle. The film was interrupted by landscape shots of low horizons that didn't just mark the steady passing of the seasons but also provided a vista for Karen and her family to trudge across, as they travelled to see Ian in prison. This was Hardy without the plot, though, a studiously understated narrative that appeared to flinch away from all the obvious sources of dramatic tension. So we learned only after the event that Karen had had an affair with the friendly chap at the local pub, but the revelation caused only a momentary ripple in the even surface of the thing.

Christmas followed Christmas, experienced only at second hand by Ian. You got the texture of this oddly twisted life: awkward visits in which there's not much to say because father and children are living in different worlds, the hurried sex of a day out on licence, the exhaustion for Karen of being the only adult. There were fine moments of documentary observation ("You understand that drugs outside of prison are stronger than those inside and may lead to overdose," droned a prison guard as he processed Ian for parole) and performances of unforced naturalness from all the children. But there was also an odd sense of missing emotional connections. I think it may have been to the drama's credit.

The encounters between Ian and his family had the authentic awkwardness of people pretending to an easy intimacy that wasn't actually there. But it didn't make it any easier to ride out the repetitions of the film, or to be convinced by the sunny mood of reunion on which the film finished, as the family played together on a Norfolk beach after Ian's release. The lift of the camera boom hinted at happy resolution, but you wondered whether Ian had really learned anything.

twitter.com/tds153

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Arts and Entertainment
The Vienna State Opera
opera
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'
musicLilly Wood and Robin Schulz bag number one single
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories