His & Hers

Interviews with 70 women tell the life story of white, Irish, heterosexual women, through their relationships with men. Katherine Wootton has more

Katherine Wootton, 3 March 2011

His & Hers is a 'creative documentary' that uses interviews with 70 women to create a kind of choral metanarrative, their many voices brought together in one affecting personal and confessional monologue, which tells the story of a woman's life.

The interviews are, strictly speaking, documentary, but Ken Wardrop's directorial choices, the actions he shows the women doing, and visual style, the careful construction of the static shots, portrayal of the environment and his deliberately structured editing, make this a much more artistic piece than the usual observational documentary.

Wardrop is clearly inspired by and deeply respects these women, the film is beautifully shot and feels incredibly honest and intimate, yet overall it is most clearly Wardrop's authorial voice that controls the narrative.

The chronological development of the story means that, as the women grow older, aspects of their feelings, relationships and daily life become more complicated

I was reminded of the tagline for the original George Cukor version of the film The Women: "It's all about men!" The story told by Wardrop through these women portrays the progression of a woman's life through her relationships with men, and how these gradually change with time and age. The story is of white, heterosexual, Irish women. It begins in childhood, with young girls talking about their fathers, then preteens talk the boys at school, then their boyfriends, as the women reach their 20s, it becomes about fiances and husbands, then children, and then it comes around to solitude.

The women are interviewed at home, and many of them are shown performing traditional femininity and domesticity - laundry, setting the table, putting on make-up, cleaning - with a few knowingly deliberate exceptions, such as an older woman driving an enormous tractor.

Although it is a very specific and essentially traditional narrative, the episodic nature of the interview subjects and the chronological development of the story means that as the women grow older, aspects of their feelings, relationships and daily life become more complicated. Their experience of the milestones and difficulties faced, and thoughts on how this affects them and their husbands and sons, begins to feel more universal.

The film has a visual elegance, and is cleverly constructed and artfully edited. The greatest strength is its unity of vision. Wardrop has made an assured and quiet film: a documentary essentially about life from start to finish, which is ambitious and subtly done.

His & Hers screenings:

8 March
Curzon Soho, London (including Q&A with director Ken Wardrop)
11-17 March
Queens Film Theatre, Belfast
Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee
Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow
Derry Omniplex, Derry
15-17 March
Eden Court, Inverness, Scotland
16-17 March
Mac Robert Stirling University Campus
18-24 March
Tricycle, London

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