TIME: FILM REVIEW
Directed by Garrett Bradley, Time is a documentary that follows the story of Fox Rich and her family, with footage that spans more than 20 years. Fox and her husband, Robert, fell in love when they were 16. They had dreams of opening a hip-hop clothing store, but when times fell hard, they attempted to rob a credit union. Although Fox got released from prison after three-and-a-half years due to a plea deal, Robert was sentenced to 60 years without parole. Time not only follows Fox’s fight to release Robert, but also shows the tragically profound impact a corrupt system has on the lives and loved ones of those who are designed to fall prey.
By naming her documentary Time, Bradley decidedly makes an effective and intentional artist’s statement. The film is strung together by tapes that Fox has documented over the last 20 years, from showing her pregnant belly to celebrating her twins’ birthday to praying that Robert will come home soon. Materializing the length of 20 years is difficult for our brains to fully grasp. I’ve only been on this earth for 20 years, yet my personal metric is still not enough to really understand how long of a stretch of time 20 years is. However, through watching clips of Fox’s transformation, as well as witnessing the growth of her twins, Freedom and Justus, who were three months old when Robert was sentenced to prison and are eighteen by the time he gets out, the viewer gets a painfully accurate sense of the time that has been robbed from Fox and her family in this fight. By the time Robert finally gets released from prison, his babies have already turned into men.
The extensive narration in Time surprisingly does not make the film feel corny or gimmicky. Rather, it emphasizes the most human elements of the film. The narrator points out the grimace on Ms. Fox’s face when she receives no answer to the judge’s decision, or the plea in her voice when she asks her mother to forgive her for her actions.
Both Fox and Bradley make it clear that this film is not about the crime itself. Fox and Robert did, in fact, attempt a credit union robbery. However, their punishment is undeserved just the same. A system that is able to take away 60 years of one’s life, his only life, just because of a desperate decision that resulted in no one’s harm, is inhumane and goes beyond even the concept of crime and punishment. Incarceration is about oppression and power, more so than it ever is about punishment.
As we follow Fox Rich throughout her painfully long journey of fighting for her husband’s release, we witness the power of a woman with relentless strength, one who refuses to be stopped by any of the obstacles that this broken system has put in front of her. “Success is the best revenge,” she mutters to herself, peacefully at first, until she can’t help but unleash her anger. Not only do we see Fox Rich’s success as a community leader, but also as a mother, a daughter, and a friend. Clips show Freedom explaining mass incarceration to his classmates, Remington (the eldest) glowing at his dental school graduation, and Justus never failing to lend a helping hand to his mom. Rich ensures that her children are raised with pride and principal, no matter how much hurt they endure.
Although Robert’s presence can surely be felt, Bradley does not show clips of Robert or his perspective in prison throughout the film. As viewers, we only get to see old footage of him and Fox before his incarnation, or hear his voice over the phone as he talks to Fox, before the phone line abruptly cuts him off. It’s not until Robert’s release, do we really see him present in the film. By providing a visual absence of his presence, Bradley attempts to put us into Fox’s shoes. If Fox can’t see Robert, we can’t either.
Time crystallizes the fragility of each moment and second that we have, placing it in the hands of a ruthlessly corrupt system that has the power to that away in an instant. Time does not stand singularly, as it is a story that more than 2 million Americans can relate to. The final scene, although a relief, sparks bittersweet and painful tears. It seems that the only way for us to reconcile the damage inflicted upon the Rich family for all these years is to hold hope for their future and cherished time they finally have together.