Filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, ever the force to be reckoned with, returns with another drama experiment that will no doubt find only the smallest of audiences. And what a shame that is, because the raw talent and emotion on display here is nothing short of masterful.

The film is Everyday and the premise is simple: Karen (Shirley Henderson) struggles to raise her four children while their father Ian (John Simm) serves time in prison for drug smuggling. Shot over 5 years in 2-week intervals, Winterbottom gets to the core of both regret and perseverance without any on-the-nose monologues or over-the-top performances.

Taking a cue from fellow Brit auteur Ken Loach, Everyday lives in the world of the working class and the day-in-day-out struggle to make a life for you and yours. The children (played by real-life siblings Shaun, Robert, Katrina and Stephanie Kirk) go to school every day, getting into fights, learning holiday songs and everything in between. We watch them struggle to connect with their father, who they only get to visit every so often, and for minutes at a time.

The cinematography, from no less than 5 camera operators (Sean Bobbitt, James Clarke, Annemarie Lean-Vercoe, Simon Tindall and Marcel Zyskind, to be exact), offers docu-style scenes alongside extended landscape shots that pop despite the digital aesthetic. This is a very real, very beautiful world full of very imperfect, very interesting characters.

The score, courtesy of the great Michael Nyman, takes some time to get used to. Compared to the rest of the film, the notes Nyman hits are extremely heavy-handed. Thankfully, Winterbottom uses the theme sparingly, utilizing the score as a natural crescendo for the high and low points our characters hit throughout the narrative.

Winterbottom has worked in nearly every genre a filmmaker can throughout the span of his busy 25-year career. He has never appeared as in control of the performances on screen as he is here. The real hero (or heroine) is Henderson, who is superb as Karen. Though much of her dialogue be incidental, her expressive face does all of the talking.

These are the kinds of the stories that, though almost impossibly hard to watch, need to be told. Playing at under 90 minutes, the efficiency of the drama is a victory in itself. There is not a wasted moment throughout. As the story continues to unfold, we pray this family will stay together long enough to find the happiness all of us are looking for because these are real people, and we care about them.

Everyday is now in limited release and on VOD.

Grade: A

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