Written by: Hannah Tran | October 16th, 2020
Time (Garrett Bradley, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Fox Rich is a woman who understands time like no other. Spending the last two decades raising her six sons on her own after her husband was sentenced to 60 years in prison for a botched bank robbery, every single minute to Rich feels like a lifetime. In Garrett Bradley’s documentary, aptly titled Time, we are able to gaze into some of the most heartbreaking and inspiring moments of that time as she endeavors to raise her family, run a business, fight for her husband’s release and advocate for prison reform on a mass scale. Through years of archival footage recorded by Rich, herself, as well as original material, Bradley’s documentary takes the personal experience of one woman and transforms it into a universal meditation on justice, love and liberation.
The power in the subject of this documentary feels rare, yet Fox Rich’s story is all-too-familiar to so many Americans experiencing her same situation today. Bradley understands their pain, desperation and endurance, and the filmmaking, with its thoughtful editing and deep respect for its subject, is able to give her story the justice it deserves. With its presentation of a family without a father and a husband, Time is able to convey the lasting inhumanity and trauma of the prison-industrial complex without ever having to step foot inside one.
As one can imagine, Fox Rich’s life is one filled with nearly every emotion. This documentary is no different. And while, perhaps, it takes a bit too long to reach its emotional crescendo, the power in its final moments is indisputable. The film is best when it leans into these moments, which are supported by the almost transcendent score by Edwin Montgomery and Jamieson Shaw. Although the soundtrack may, at times, feel manipulative in its excessive use, it, at all times, feels perfectly suited to the images and emotions that it’s paired with.
It especially works throughout the film’s final moments, which provide its greatest reflection on the notion of lost time. But unfortunately, while the ending proves to be the documentary’s most powerful moment, it also makes the sections that came before it feel weaker. The overwhelming focus on the family seems somewhat disconnected from the broader range of focus that the preceding moments of the film assumed. It then feels that the film is, perhaps, attempting to juggle too many of Rich’s roles without giving itself the runtime to fully develop any of them beyond idea. While it’s impossible to not feel moved by their experience, by the time the movie is wrapping up their story, it still feels as if we are just getting to know those at its center.
Time is a movie that plays with its titular subject well. It understands the immediacy and determinable qualities that make it so valuable. So while the time spent peering into the lives of these subjects may feel somewhat brief, the message that it conveys through them about love, family and the fight for justice is never-ending.