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Film Review: In Urgent “No Time to Fail,” Democracy Is at Stake

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | October 26th, 2022

Film poster: “No Time to Fail”

No Time to Fail (Sara Archambault/Margo Guernsey, 2022) 3 out of 4 stars.

Election integrity has become increasingly topical since 2020, when one Donald J. Trump falsely claimed to have been conned out of the American presidency through fraud. Nothing was further from the truth—not that truth ever mattered to that man—though that has not stopped his acolytes from spreading the Big Lie and angling to pass laws that would give them greater control over future elections. As the 2022 midterms approach, now is as good a time as any to learn what exactly goes into supervising elections and appreciate the people who keep our democracy on track.

Such is the mission of No Time to Fail, a new documentary from directors Sara Archambault and Margo Guernsey (Councilwoman). A profile of election workers in Rhode Island, the film starts in September, 8 weeks before the big day, and then tracks forward to the results and their aftermath. We meet a variety of players in the process and spend a lot of exciting time behind the scenes. One thing is always clear: these folks care about their jobs and go the extra mile to ensure that your vote matters.

Kathy Placencia, Administrator of Elections for Providence, in NO TIME TO FAIL ©Arch + Bow FIlms

The year 2020 posed even more challenges than usual, thanks to COVID-19, and there are plenty of masks everywhere as things heat up. In addition, because of the pandemic, whatever staff-shortage issues usually crop are magnified by bouts of illness. At no point does anyone throw in the towel. The stakes are just too high.

My favorite among the large cast of appealing characters are Rob Rock, Rhode Island’s Director of Elections, and Kathy Placencia, Administrator of Elections for Providence. Despite running the entire system, Rock still finds time to answer the phones himself, fielding the most mundane of questions as he multitasks, as well as to deliver mail-in ballots door-to-door. Placencia is much the same, with the delightful addition of a potty mouth. She’s also a dedicated mother, who manages to occasionally find family time even as she works late every day.

Rob Rock, Rhode Island’s Director of Elections, in NO TIME TO FAIL ©Arch + Bow FIlms

Cinematically speaking, there is nothing striking about the filmmaking or pace, and the onscreen graphics are just adequate. But what counts in this straightforward chronicle are the people, and they make the movie. There’s nothing extraordinary in any of them, beyond their dedication and humanity. Despite the difficulties they face throughout, they never give up. There’s no time to fail like the present, so let’s be sure to follow their example and … not fail this time around.

Want to see the film? It can be watched virtually as per the below:

Monday, October 31 at 5pm ET – purchase tickets here.

Wednesday, November 2 at 5pm ET – purchase tickets here.

Friday, November 4 at 7pm ET – purchase tickets here.

Saturday, November 5 at 2pm ET – purchase tickets here.

Saturday, November 5 at 6pm ET – purchase tickets here.

Sunday, November 6 at 2pm ET – purchase tickets here.

Nick Lima, Registrar/Director of Elections at City of Cranston, in NO TIME TO FAIL ©Arch + Bow FIlms

Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator, as well as Film Festival Today's Editor. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, Chris is, in addition, lead film critic at Hammer to Nail and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice.

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