A woman named Fox Rich is literally in our face as Time begins. She is addressing the camera, maintaining a video diary of her comings and goings. The cumulative effect only hits home as a major chapter in her life comes to a close in Garrett Bradley’s Time. This is one of the year’s best documentaries, and one of the most disarming. It already earned the filmmaker the Directing Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize. Other accolades are still to come.
Fox Rich exudes poise and self-assurance, but it’s a pose she strikes—not just for the camera, or her family, but for herself. She and her husband robbed a bank twenty years ago, and while she’s served twelve years he is only a third of the way through a sixty-year sentence. With the help of her mother, she’s been raising four children (including twin boys) ever since she got out. Now she’s lobbying for his parole and hitting one wall after another, determined not to give in to despair or surrender hope. That would be another victory for the System.
Time isn’t a preachy film. Bradley lets the reality of Fox’s day-to-day encounters speak for themselves. It’s clear that when a man is sentenced to prison his whole family is penalized. And if it remains uncertain how two smart, determined people could commit armed robbery, there isn’t much doubt that they have paid a heavy price for their folly.
It would be all too easy to write off people like this based on a generic description, or reduce them to a statistic. Time makes them vividly real and empathetic. Real life is messy, and people aren’t all good or all bad. Expertly weaving cinema-verité footage of the Rich family today with moments spanning twenty years of life without a husband or father on the scene, Bradley forces us to consider (or reconsider) people living on the margins of society and their daily struggle.
Time is playing on Amazon Prime. There is also a worthwhile conversation between Garrett Bradley and Ava DuVernay on YouTube.