Fox Richardson’s husband, Rob, has been in prison for over twenty years for attempted armed robbery (which Fox was also involved in). Nobody has ever denied his guilt, least of all Rob, who pleaded guilty at the time, but Fox believes his sentence (sixty years without the possibility of parole) to be drastically disproportionate for a crime in which nobody was hurt.
The couple carried out the robbery after an investor pulled out of a plan to support their new business in 1997. As Fox says, ‘desperate people do desperate things.’ They made a big mistake. They’re well aware of that, but Fox believes that Rob has more than served his time, and she’s spent every year since arguing that he was poorly represented and campaigning for his release. Time, the new documentary from director Garrett Bradley, brings that story to the screen.
In many ways, Time feels almost like a spiritual successor to Ava DuVernay’s 2016 Oscar nominee 13th, dealing with America’s mass incarceration problem, albeit in a more personal manner. Time opts to approach this issue through the eyes of one family, delivering its message in a relatable yet equally successful way. Richardson and Bradley’s argument clearly is that the problem lies in incarcerating people for far longer than they need to be; that the system is utterly broken.
At the heart of this film is the abundance of archive footage provided by Fox; a combination of family home videos and personal diaries from Fox herself. It tells its own story, and it brings the audience on the journey with them. We feel the ‘time’ that’s passed and, in turn, understand the sheer anguish that the family have experienced. It articulates emotions in a way that no amount of talking heads could achieve, and also creates some form of character arc for the film’s protagonist, Fox, showcasing her evolution from a scared young mother to a brave and impressive woman, capable of achieving the impossible.
Fox has managed to raise six delightful sons mostly on her own, all the while running a busy car dealership and constantly trying to get her husband out of prison. She is intelligent and articulate, persistent and patient. A frankly remarkable person, Fox brings so much energy to the story; impassioned in her speech, determined in her journey and endlessly watchable.
Time, which boasts a hauntingly beautiful score from Jamieson Shaw and Edwin Montgomery, is also brilliantly presented in black-and-white, adding some consistency in tone and evoking the feeling of the film as a family memory; the past, not the future. An excellent choice on Bradley’s part.
Perhaps the only criticism that could be labelled at the film is that it is simply too short. At just 81 minutes, many details are brushed over, with the viewer offered little information with regards to Rob’s appeal or in fact the initial crime itself. Of course, the family is the heart of this story, but a little more context would’ve certainly been welcome.
Overall, Time is extremely effective; a personal and melancholic look at an ongoing problem. Thematically rich, it focuses on all the negative effects of the topic at hand, while never losing sight of the heart of its story; Fox, Rob and their sons. It gives us a family worth reuniting, and two people worthy of a second chance.
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