At age 42, director Jennifer Fox picked up a camera to investigate her modern female life. Passing it between herself and female friends around the globe, she collected over 1,600 hours of footage, edited in 2007 into six hour-long episodes united under the title “Flying — Confessions of a Free Woman.” Her video diary begins with a miscarriage and ends with a failed attempt at in vitro fertilization. On one level, the film is an 11th-hour drama about a woman who, after a lifetime of resisting a stereotypical female existence, realizes too late that she wants to be a mother.
Although Fox, on the verge of tears in many shots, dominates the screen, the difficulties of her two concurrent relationships (a married South African man and a naively doting Swiss bachelor) are the least interesting aspects of the film. Such indolent misery cannot compete with the unprovoked misfortunes of her global sisters. As her friend Pat, suffering complications following brain surgery, says, “Every day there is a new mysterious devastation to deal with.”
Several women are profiled, from Egypt’s Gihan, who has found a way to fulfill herself as a mother and as a globe-trotting journalist, to Chanthol, director of a shelter for Cambodian sex workers. But all of them take a back seat to Fox’s emotional and sexual tribulations, which are tediously restated in each of the film’s chapters.
Over the six hours spent with Fox as she jets around the globe, a picture emerges, not only of a modern woman contemplating herself, but of Western society boasting of its freedom to a world struggling for mere survival.