“Some Women”, shown on BBC1, was made in those heady days two years ago when Tony Garnett and Roy Battersby were creating a new kind of TV verité. Conceived, like “Cathy Come Home” as a Wednesday Play, it was originally held back because of internal BBC objections that it crossed the borderline between drama and documentary. Recently a new introduction was added by Tony Parker, on whose book it was based, and one of the five interviews with women “criminals” was dropped.
In fact Parker’s interviews with the women (played by actresses who had read his book and then tried in their own words to relive the true stories in it) were anything but heady. Parker goes as near as any social worker to thinking aloud for the subject simply by staying around, listening carefully and asking primary, unchallenging questions. In this way he has won the trust of a naturally distrustful breed, and got as near as anyone to recording experiences that actually happened. Even in the slightly bastard form of “Some Women” the integrity of the operation was never in doubt.
Shot in deliberately flat, anonymous surroundings, the film demanded a great deal from the four actresses to re-live these parts of the lost, detached women they represented. The four cases chosen were habitual petty criminals, who had all done time, and could most probably look forward to doing more – and the actresses responded credibly to Parker’s serious manner, filling the pauses he is prone to as best they could. Because of his dry sympathy, his unwillingness to ask leading questions, we had to be content with repetitious life histories and to draw our own conclusions about the kind of society which produced them – probably the point of the exercise. Like verbatim court reporting it was incontrovertible, yet somehow unsatisfactory.