Usually, when a movie takes place over an extended period of time, the dumb logic of economical screenwriting results in scenes where everything that happens to the characters in a period of years has to be suggested in one compressed moment: As a child is born, and gets named for someone who died a couple reels back, a character’s phone rings with the news that he or she got that promotion, just before grandma coughs in a delicate, no-big-deal way that confirms that next year’s scene will be at a funeral.
Shot in bursts over five years so that its actors age with its characters, Michael Winterbottom’s wise and involving Everyday is blessedly scraped free of such silliness. Life for Karen (Shirley Henderson), a mother whose kids ripen before our eyes, and Ian (John Simm), her incarcerated husband, is a grind through an unrelenting succession of small, unmemorable moments. With two jobs, plus four kids to wrangle to school and back each day, how could she ever have time for scenes?
Instead we see unscripted-feeling moments that ache of life: Karen checking a toddler’s diaper as they plod through browning British fields; the kids rehearsing for Christmas pageants; the increasingly distant older boys staring at TVs and video games; the mad sweat and bustle of forced-marching this brood to catch a bus to catch a train to catch a cab to visit dad in jail, all edited to suggest an exhausting forward momentum and just how much of herself she must burn to get through each day.
And we see, with simultaneous dread and hope, Karen get asked out by a nice-seeming chap at a bar where she works. One day soon, we know, probably just as the third act starts, her husband will be free. But she’s spent the film until this point waiting and toiling, and the family’s visits with the husband in lock-up — and his occasional furlough — suggest he’s been stunted while everyone else has grown.
Time gushes by. The kids grow, dad’s hair grays, and stolid Karen sets her jaw, fights off tears, and gets done all the things she needs to get done. Henderson’s skin seems to harden as the years past — her performance is a touching study in both perseverance and erosion.
This is a film of accretion. The quick scraps of time we’re shown heap together into full, persuasive lives, something like the way flashes of undramatic memory cohere into your sense of your past: That was the year where every night I walked that street, took that bus, wore those jeans, felt those things.
The inevitable, when it comes, is especially affecting, considering how these characters seem to have shoved through time itself to get to it. Most of the film lives up to its title, presenting the everyday without fuss, but there is some drama, especially in a pair of sex scenes, separated by years, in which Karen’s responses are in heartbreaking counterpoint. In the end, the film exposes a simple truth: The life that our moments accumulate into may come to feel full and complete, like the way things ought to be, but when that life changes, and we take those changes passively, fresh moments begin to pile up, often shaping into something new — something else we’ll end up living with.