by Angelo Muredda Michael Winterbottom makes projects more than he makes films, and happy are the rare few that bridge the gap. Everyday comes close at times, with no thanks to the unnecessarily tricked-out structure, which picks up with a young British family at holiday satellite points spread out over a five-year period and watches them cope with separation anxiety in between. In theory, this narrative-by-checkpoint strategy most resembles 2004's dismal 9 Songs, where Winterbottom watched a dull relationship bloom and die over the course of nine dull concerts and miserable sex scenes, but the film can't help but be improved by the material this time.
There are a number of hooks here, the first and most engaging being the quasi-documentary nature of the timespan, which Winterbottom, cast, and crew maintained by meeting up at intervals between other work and life events. As the couple, Shirley Henderson and John Simm nicely register the mundane passing of time between their visits, so far apart on account of Simm's prison sentence for a drug-related felony; the toll of their estrangement is written on their increasingly droopy faces and tentative gestures. Henderson especially is moving, grounding this kitchen-sink melodrama with her natural grit, rarely shown of late in thankless supporting roles like her wispy pedophile ghost in the Harry Potter series.Strong as the cast is, there's a degree of ostentation built into the conceit that doesn't sit right. We're meant, for instance, to be amazed by the reality effect of the couple's four children, played by real-life siblings who age before our eyes over the course of the running time. If the goal is to marvel at their authenticity, though, why does Winterbottom place them in such a controlled situation as this, forcing them to act out Christmas apart from Dad each year--once more with even more feeling? And what is the logic behind Michael Nyman's aggressively schmaltzy score, which swells to unbearable proportions whenever the family separates or comes together? There's a modestly affecting family love ballad in here, but you have to strain to hear it. Programme: Masters