PG-13. For the most part, there is nothing objectionable in the documentary. Fox mostly keeps it together for the camera, stressing the fact that she can work within the system and avoid confrontation to make change. But at one point, she just breaks down and she allows herself the freedom to say a stream of expletives. The movie deals with the racial inequality of the justice system which should be addressed to all ages, but this one might be over the heads of younger viewers. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Garrett Bradley
One of the major problems with my binge watching Academy Awards is that I feel like I've watched so many movies since watching Time. I know it was only, like, last week that I watched this. But I remember being pretty moved by Time...at the time. (I didn't mean to do that.) It's really unfair to take this blog as the only point of reference for this movie. If you are reading this because you don't necessarily want to watch the film, I recommend that you do. It's pretty solid. I don't know if it is life-changing. But it is a very vulnerable film about a topic that probably doesn't get the attention that it deserves.
Time absolutely has an agenda. Before you start hardcore backpedaling out of this blog, realize that all art should have an agenda. I know. Controversial, right? Great art wants to change the world and that is something fundamental about amazing storytelling. Documentarians also come in with an agenda and Time wants to stress the problems that are associated with the criminal justice system, especially in cases involving the Black community. I don't know if I was fully aware of how bad the problem was when I wrote my blog on 13th by Ava DuVernay, but Time kind of acts as a sample case for how the criminal justice system affects the real world in a microcosm. The film focuses on Sibil Fox Rich and her attempt to free her husband, Rob Rich, so he can be a father to his children during some time in their childhood.
What is interesting is that it is a commentary on the criminal justice system while being this redemptive arc for Sibil. The movie never denies that the crime was committed. It never even questions the verdict of the trial. The Rich couple did rob a bank. However, the movie really takes a hard stance on the sentencing of Black men. The crux of the film hinges on the idea that the sentencing for a bank robbery goes from five years to 99 years. The idea that a family truly doesn't know the potential sentencing of someone based on this wide array of punishment is what throws the Rich family into turmoil. And from Sibil's perspective is the dangerous idea of hope. After the five year mark, Sibil really does believe that this is the year that her husband comes home.
Sibil is a mother of many children. She is carrying twins while Rob is in prison and these twins often provide a context for how much time has passed. While I'm sure the more cynical reading audience might roll their eyes at the twins names, Freedom and Justice, I found myself moved at the meaning of the names. Justice is pronounced "Just Us", as in "It's just us now". Sibil is fighting this battle herself. She has many children who need a father. And she doesn't seem quite angry in this part of the story. The movie follows Sibil coming to terms with her own involvement in the crime and the amends that she has to repay. But what becomes very clear is the knowledge that the family suffers as much as the inmate.
And Sibil ends up being this amazing mother by herself. She uses her own story to motivate and inspire her children and others. This shouldn't be a piece of evidence to stress that a father wouldn't have made their lives better. But it always seems like an uphill struggle for the Rich family. Everything is a challenge when it shouldn't be. And it is because of the motivation of Sibil and the kids themselves that they ended up so well-adjusted. But I think the movie and society may view the family as atypical. The boys became focused on civil rights and politics because they wanted to change the system from the inside. But it is through Sibil's strength and courage that the boys are able to maintain a life that seems daunting. She has this willpower that is rare.
Yet, I can't help but think of Sibil's culpability in this whole thing. Again, I'm speaking from a point of white privilege. Sibil did assist Rob in the bank robbery. She met with the people she robbed and had a real conversation about making amends. Sibil goes in front of her entire church and confesses her crime and acts for absolution. But I don't understand Sibil's sentence. Is she given clemency because of the kids? Was the court aware that at least one parent, perhaps the one with lesser liability in the crime, needs to care for these children ahead of the state? Yeah, this is a film about injustice and I do believe that Rob was given an unfair sentence considering that he wasn't a professional bank robber. But I also have to acknowledge that Sibil was granted this amazing gift of having her kids, despite the crime she committed. I know. This shouldn't be the message that is getting out there. Instead, I should be obsessed with the Rob element of the story. But my brain is my brain. I still want to fight the good fight, but I don't know if I have a leg to stand on when it comes to that element of the story.
Time is an important movie. It seems like this document out of history. Because Sibil documented so much of her life post-conviction, we really have a full view of what happened in this story. Is it the most damning attack on the justice system? Probably not. Still, if you want to see how the ripples of an even lives day-to-day, Time does that.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.