Every now and then there is a film that stands out from the rest, a film that grips you in ways that are new and exciting. Time is exactly that. It highlights the impact that incarceration has on a family through the story of the Rich’s, and shows how they endure two decades of separation.
In 1997 Fox Rich and her husband Rob Rich opened a hip-hop apparel business in Louisiana and fell on hard times. In an act of desperation, they decided to rob a bank and ended up going to prison. Fox took a plea bargain and got out on parole after three-and-a-half years. Rob didn’t and was sentenced to 60 years without parole or, at the time, any chance of his sentence being shortened.
Since she got out Fox has fought hard against her husband’s sentence, trying everything she can to get him out early. All the while she is raising six sons and owning her own car dealership. She is a true matriarch.
There is no doubt that they were in the wrong, and the film doesn’t attempt to argue that, but it highlights how broken criminal justice in America is. It is a system weighted against the black community and makes it hard for anyone in it to grow and change as a person.
As Fox says “desperate people do desperate things, it’s as simple as that.” Rob, a man who turned to crime because it was his only option, wasn’t just put in prison, he was sentenced to a life away from his family. It didn’t just punish him, it had a ripple effect making the lives of six young men undoubtedly more difficult.
The film belongs to the Rich family; it is made with them, not about them. They incorporate footage shot by Fox over the years showing the passing of time. We get to see her boys grow up to become kind and successful young men, with one son even going on to study political science so he can better understand and change the system that has affected his family.
Director Garret Bradley’s respect for their story is evident. From the atmospheric piano score to the stunning use of black and white it is almost impossible to fault her work. In almost every shot she centres a single person in the frame creating a sort of intimacy. It feels a though we are witnessing their life, not being told about it.
I find it hard to call this a documentary because it is so much more than that. From beginning to end it is remarkably poetic and couldn’t be further from the usual overly-dramatized crime doc that one might expect. It shows us the beauty in hardship in a way that didn’t seem possible before. It is unique it in its approach and style and is worth a watch.
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