The new Amazon Prime Video documentary Time is lyrical, uncomfortable, and beautifully done.
This review of Time (Amazon Prime) is spoiler-free.
Garrett Bradley’s lyrical documentary, Time, is a rare slice of socioeconomic despair. This film is not just a glimpse of one woman’s struggle to reunite her family. It is a total encompassing of circumstances, views, and policies that have shaped lives for generations that is beyond one’s own control. The type of backward thinking that has kept people of color at bay for decades. Including, but not limited to, living under the faux theoretical cloud of the overall culture of poverty that has led America to replace slavery with mass incarceration.
Time tells the story of entrepreneur Fox Rich. For nearly two decades she has campaigned for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is serving a prison sentence of over 60 years. You may ask, what’s the catch? Is it for a robbery he didn’t commit? No, it’s not that kind of film. He did it. He admits it. Ms. Rich knows it. In fact, she was there with her husband, but he sits in a prison cell for a crime they both committed. Yes, it was wrong, it was unlawful and it was criminal. However, it was made in a moment over 20 years prior, out of economic desperation.
The Rich’s tale is seen through the eyes of the human toll of racial economic disparity. Their circumstances were a product of restricted opportunity, not the result of an innate feeling to do wrong or wanting to cause harm, but as a way to help provide for their twin boys as they try to navigate the stacked deck of life and wonder why they can’t win. Shot in black and white, while shifting between different points in time, Bradley’s nonlinear approach, and unbelievably effective and moving film score, is an elegant experience.
Time is a documentary that will be divisive for audiences, but most film critics will stand on soapboxes screaming how much they love it. Many will wonder why humanize a criminal for committing armed robbery and that is a valid point to make. The fact is Bradley doesn’t make excuses for Fox Rich, but just shows her in her natural light. She is stubborn, determined, bullish, charming, and unapologetic in her views of an unforgiving and overbearing criminal justice system. However, if you look beyond her strong façade, what you are actually seeing and hearing is the guilt of living free while her husband is not.
Time’s last few shots bring the film together in a way that should speak to anyone who has made a mistake—even the ones who haven’t had to pay for it. It is lyrical, uncomfortable, and beautifully done.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.