British director Michael Winterbottom is prolific, having made 20 movies since his 1995 first, Butterfly Kiss. And Winterbottom, unlike his other British contemporaries like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, is widely seen in India and the Gulf. His latest, Everyday, competes at the ongoing Abu Dhabi Film Festival.
Last year, Winterbottom’s Trishna with India’s Frieda Pinto, was part of the Abu Dhabi competition. An adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the movie was set in a Rajasthan village, the master author’s protagonist having been transformed into a poor autorickshaw driver’s daughter. If Tess was all about the latest 19th century’s class divisions and conflicts in Britain with its underlying challenge of the prevailing sexual mores, Trishna spoke of the economic disparity in today’s India and the kind of sexual power and subjugation it brought on.
Winterbottom’s love for India had brought him time and again to the country. Before Trishna, he had filmed A Mighty Heart, with Angelina Jolie and Irrfan, on the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’ murder. A part of the movie was shot in Pune.
Winterbottom’s has been extremely adventurous with his choice of subject. If the Killer Inside Me was a pulpy noir, Code 46 was a science fiction and his 24 Hour Party People a post-modern look at the music scene, his 9 Songs was daringly controversial for its sexual content with its unsimulated sex (actual sexual intercourse and ejaculation).
This time around, Winterbottom’s Everyday is a sedate look at the life of a prisoner charged with drug offences, his working class wife and their four little children. Unfolding over four Christmases and set in Scotland, the movie traces the trials of the woman as she struggles to cope with work and her children and run a home without a man.
Dividing her time between various kinds of jobs and the monthly visits to the prison (which is punishingly far away from her home), Karen is lonely and desperate, the pain of separation getting worse in later years especially when the man is allowed brief home visits.
Everyday true to its title is a placid kind of work whose single dramatic curve comes right at the end, but does not quite lead to any cinematic tension. Really nothing much happens, and a sense of boredom is a strong possibility for those who expect Everyday to be anything more than just that – the often mundane every day.
Everyday presents no shocking incidents, no confrontations. What it does is a very routine view of life, where the characters appear to have been told to just be themselves in front of the camera.
Unlike 9 Songs or A Mighty Heart or even Trishna, Everyday could seem insipid. And far from brilliant that Winterbottom’s first work, Welcome to Sarajevo, was.