It is a testament to the honesty and power of Michael Winterbottom’s filmmaking that the “gimmick” that will attract much of the press attention for Everyday is actually the device that delivers its intimacy and humanity.
Shot over five years, and using four real siblings (Stephanie, Robert, Shaun and Katrina Kirk), this is a movie about the mundane rituals of life: the trudge to school, the battle to make ends meet, the playground fights, the lonely nights and the despair at not being a united family. But for every rain-soaked scene there is a shaft of light, literal and metaphorical.Karen (Shirley Henderson) is the mum left caring for four kids while her husband Ian (John Simm) serves five years in prison for a crime never explained but which resonates severity because of its duration. Karen and the kids’ life is depicted at its most banal with breakfast rituals, telling offs and nightly tuck-ins – and the almost overpowering emotion of their prison visits to see Dad.
As Ian serves his sentence he is moved around a number of prisons and we see (and feel) the dedication behind Karen’s efforts to maintain their relationship and keep her family connected over the long hours and miles of coach and train journeys. The heartbreak lies in the routine, the “sameness”. There are many scenes of phone calls to the Christmas table, prison trips where the same conversations are had: “How’s school?” “Are you being good?” “How are things?” There are also the hugs of hello and goodbye, which are as much a reassurance for Ian and Karen as they are for the children.
Amid the drudgery of life, Everyday intercuts beautiful scenes of the natural world. They help to define the seasons – and the length of Ian’s sentence – but they are also a beacon of hope in their prospect of renewal, as well as in the practicality that time surely passes. Winterbottom mixes handheld-style footage with these vivid, bucolic sequences and it creates the perfect tone. A fine example sees the camera follow the youngest boy, Shaun, through the corridors and security doors of a prison’s visiting area. The camera hovers at his eye level; the world seems big, confusing, noisy and constantly shifting. It’s tragic but poignant.
Michael Nyman’s score provides depth and texture and also acts as a further beacon of hope. The insistent rhythm and swell brilliantly suggest the tension in Ian and Karen’s marriage, the hardship of life lived on repeat but also the prospect of happiness. The performances are uniformly wonderful, though Henderson, in particular, delivers subtlety and nuance.
Mundanity is hard to portray on screen and a script of short, half-sentences could have led to an aimless atmosphere. But Everyday is certainly not without direction. It is a film as close to what life is really about for some people as is possible to show in a movie – especially one that cares about resonating for as wide an audience as possible. It is a story about the strength that comes from within, and in unity, as well as love.