Let me say with no small dose of humility, I am about the last reviewer to chime on Garrett Bradley’s extraordinary documentary called “Time.” It was bought at Sundance by Amazon Prime and has been on their system since October 16th, I think. I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t see it earlier, but here we are. “Time” will be an Oscar nominee and very likely the winner of the Academy Award next year for documentary.
“Time” is only 88 minutes but it covers 20 years in the life of the Rich family of New Orleans. The central figure is Sibil Fox, who married Rob Richardson when she was 16 and started having babies. Their lives looked promising until they were in a bind, and Rob was convinced to help rob a bank. Sibil drove the getaway car. She spent three and half years in jail. Rob was sentenced to 60 years behind bars in the Louisiana State Penitentiary for armed robbery.
That’s the set up but you can tell from Bradley’s editing and handling of time, something else happened. Released from prison, Sibil, aka Fox Rich, becomes a prisoner advocate. She wages a war to get her husband out of jail. When Bradley met Rich in 2016, she meant to make a short film. But Rich turned over 100 hours of home movies to Bradley, and this feature was born.
As Sibil tells her story and Bradley weaves in the home movies, we get to see the mother raising her six sons into charming over achievers. Fox (aka Sibil) had an epiphany in prison, it’s almost like lightning struck her. Maybe I’ve missed her on television but I can’t believe “60 Minutes,” “Ellen,” and so on haven’t done features on her. She’s the most inspiring person I’ve encountered on film this year or in years. Her journey is mesmerizing.
Somehow through some act of magic and determination, Fox Rich simply decided to keep her family in one piece while trying to get Rob released. I’m still not sure how she did it, although it’s clear she steeped herself in prison reform and the concept of institutional racism. I feel that the movie is almost too short. I’d like to know what she and Rob, who is eventually released, have to say about Black Lives Matter and where this experience is going to take them. Even with two decades of activism behind, they are a work in progress.
Bradley has made a very economical film. She needs either a sequel or some kind of epilogue on DVD. There are things about Rob’s case that aren’t clear or explained, simply that he was convicted, that he was guilty, but that the concept of life in prison occurred to Sibil to be a form of slavery. And this turned Rob’s whole story over.
“Time” is available for Amazon Prime customers. What a shame it wasn’t in theaters. It would have sold out show after show.