Movies don’t necessarily have to tell stories, but if narrative is eschewed in favor of an unvarnished portrait of ordinary life, it’s best to cheat a little and make ordinary life feel extraordinary. Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday refuses to stoop to such measures; for better and for worse—mostly for worse—it sticks to the mundane promise of its title. Those seeking drama, excitement, or even just some insight into the experience of having a loved one in prison are advised to look elsewhere. For anyone in the market for hugs, however, this picture does feature what must be the all-time record for hugs per minute, even including the Spike Lee Joints in which the same hug is shown from three separate angles.
Shot piecemeal and in sequence over a period of five years, Everyday depicts the drab daily existence of the Ferguson family, located in Norwich, England. Ian (John Simm), the patriarch, is doing a four-year stretch for a crime that’s never specified, though it’s implied to be drug-related; in general, he seems like the nicest convict anyone could ever hope to meet. His wife, Karen (Shirley Henderson), is thus left in charge of raising their four small children, Shaun (Shaun Kirk), Robert (Robert Kirk), Katrina (Katrina Kirk), and Stephanie (Stephanie Kirk)—played by four actual siblings. Every so often, Karen and the kids visit Ian, exchanging many tender hugs. Otherwise, Karen works a series of low-level jobs (retail, bartending), the kids go to school, and the seasons change. Even the affair that Karen has with a family friend (Darren Tighe) remains almost entirely offscreen, with its eventual repercussions left mostly unexplored.
It’s not impossible to create something mesmerizing from the mundane—Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles remains the gold standard for revealing character incrementally via a series of routine activities like cooking and cleaning. Winterbottom, however, seems genuinely and pointlessly committed to keeping Everyday as uninteresting as humanly possible, as if there’s some greater truth to be found in the sort of tedium that people even edit out of their home movies. His one potentially intriguing idea is the five-year shooting schedule, allowing the audience to see the four kids grow up over the course of the movie. (Richard Linklater is on the verge of wrapping up a similar project, which he’s been shooting a little at a time since 2002.) It’s really no different than watching Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint grow up over the course of the Harry Potter series, though, and they got to have magical adventures rather than just give Dad a big hug every seven or eight minutes.