Is this elliptical and socially conscious tale of jailbird and his family Michael Winterbottom's greatest film? Quite possibly.
Is Everyday Michael Winterbottom's greatest film? Commissioned by Channel 4 half a decade ago with the aim of getting the director to deliver an investigation into the workings of the modern prison system, the result is a lilting, elliptical family drama which measures the human toll of prolonged incarceration.
There is no story to speak of, as Everyday is a subtle, conceptual work which deals with broader ideas relating to time passing, people growing and emotional bonds coming under immense strain.
The great Shirley Henderson doesn't so much play mother-of-four Karen, as she inhabits her harried body and soul. Odd-jobbing while her hubby, Ian (John Simm), is in the clink for some unnamed charge (the suggestion is that it's something to do with drug smuggling), she toils to bring her children up while having to regularly drag them around the country in order to gets some facetime with their reprobate Pops in various staid prison visiting rooms.
And that's pretty much it. Winterbottom and co-writer Laurence Coriat appear to let situations play-out naturally and allow natural tensions linger in the background. In one segment, Ian is let out on day release and he and Karen decide to leave the kids frolicking in the park while they have a swift roll in the hay in a room above a pub.
The counterpoint to their nervy lovemaking is the children's encroaching sense of boredom, and the kids' collective decision to wander off and feed the ducks inspires Don't Look Now-style visions of watery terror.
But while the potential for tragedy remains omnipresent, Winterbottom never opts for undue melodrama or hysteria, and this makes the subject of the film – how a family copes when physically separated from one another – far more potent. The film contains barely any dialogue which feels scripted or moments which are clearly there to push a story or a situation.
It's a portrait that clings to a rambling, infuriating and often heartbreaking mode of scuzzy realism. The rough-hewn digital camerawork plus its particular focus on Karen and her taxing, tiring life of solo motherhood makes this feel like one of the most Iranian British films ever made (and that should be taken as a huge compliment).
So is Everyday Winterbottom's greatest film? In terms of discipline, subtlety and the fact that it's a good idea innovatively executed, then yes, it probably is. In terms of emotional punch, it probably slips into a close second behind his 1999 film Wonderland. Indeed, it shares much DNA with that film, particularly an original score by Michael Nyman.
But where the driving, melodic music in Wonderland offered a perfect encapsulation of the busy, intertwining tales of life in a thriving metropolis, it doesn't work quite so well here with its moments of quite, bucolic whimsy. But this is a small gripe in an otherwise rich, socially-astute and well-made movie.
Another WInterbottom film? Does the man ever stop?
This is one of the good ones. Perhaps even his best.
Heartbreaking but never hysterical, sage but never stodgy, challenging but never confusing.