Review by Camden Ferrell
Mass incarceration is a brutal aspect of American society that has needlessly torn apart families and ruined lives. Garrett Bradley’s newest documentary, Time, explores the effects of incarceration through one woman’s story. This film had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where it won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award. This movie functions as a time capsule of a family torn apart, and it tells its story with candor and a beating, emotional core.
Fox Rich is a successful entrepreneur, abolitionist, and author with a large family. However, her husband is serving a 60-year sentence. This film details her fight for the release of her husband as well as the memories she has captured of their family while he has been locked up. The way the film focuses on Fox Rich’s current fight for release and contrasts that with home movies tells the story in a very unique way.
Bradley’s organization of this film is rather impressive. There seems to be a lot of material, especially of pre-recorded family footage that must have been grueling to sort through, but luckily the director knows how to include this footage in moderation with the present-day scenes. The film greatly benefits from the film’s strong yet unnoticeable narrative structure which allows the story to flow naturally onscreen.
Fox Rich is a fascinating subject, and she has a great screen presence. There is never a dull moment when she’s onscreen, and she conveys her emotions and recollects her experiences gracefully, and it provides the film with an energetic boost. In addition to her, her sons are all also very bright and eloquent speakers that are enjoyable to watch as well.
Rather than exploring the systemic racism in the prison system (a subject that has been covered in many other documentaries), the film opts to focus on the detrimental effects of mass incarceration through the lens of the family unit. It’s a unique route that has some strong rhetoric founded in emotion and humanity.
This is a story to which many people can relate. Mass incarceration is a widespread issue that has terrorized minority communities for generations, and it’s an issue that won’t leave without proper leadership and reform. While this film doesn’t thoroughly explore solutions and options for reform, the film still makes a strong case for prison abolition and radical reform in the systemically racist system of mass incarceration.
One of the film’s few faults comes from its use of home videos. While it adds a lot to the film’s final product, there are a few moments that feel a little too indulgent and distracting for the narrative. Even though it emphasizes the precious memories the father missed out on, it could have been cut in a few places. Regardless, the film overcomes that fault with an abundance of empathy and a heartbreaking story of love and persistence that will hopefully become a thing of the past.
Time may be one of the most emotional documentaries of the year, and it’s one that bears social relevance over today’s current political climate. It details the unseen horrors of mass incarcerations and the toll it takes on the family unit. Bradley brilliantly tells the story of one woman fighting against injustice and the human cost of incarceration.
Time is currently playing in select theaters and will be available on Amazon Prime on October 16.