How can you visualise the passage of time? How can you convey the significance of five, ten, twenty years of life? Garrett Bradley answers this question in her stunning and powerful documentary, Time.
The film tells the story of Fox Richardson, her husband Robert and their family as they cope with Robert’s incarceration in Angola, Louisiana’s State Penitentiary. In 1997, a lapse of judgement born out of financial desperation led Robert, his nephew, and Fox to commit armed bank robbery.
All three were caught and no one was physically hurt during the incident. Fox’s punishment was a five-year jail term. Robert was sentenced to 60 years in prison with no possibility of probation, parole or chance of a suspension of sentence.
60 years - in the context of a human life - seems almost impossible to comprehend.
Time takes up the Richardson’s story 20 years into Robert’s incarceration. Beautifully shot in black and white and featuring a wonderful blues score, Bradley explores how the family has coped with Robert’s long absence by combining clips from Fox’s home videos with ‘present day’ footage.
The home videos chart the growth of Fox's sons and the life that she has made for her family. As happy as these moments are, we feel the weight of the precious moments that Robert (tragically represented by a cardboard cutout) has missed.
In some respects, the years have marched inexorably forward. In others, the family has been frozen in time - trapped in a legal system that, as Fox explains, incarcerates “poor people and black people”.
Like in Ava DuVernay’s film, 13th, and Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack’s documentary, The Farm: Angola, USA, Fox links the US prison system’s treatment of black people with the country’s history of slavery. She declares herself an abolitionist.
Fox refuses to be destroyed by so many years of pain, frustration and mind-blowing legal expense. While she owns the damage that she caused - to those in the bank that day and to her family - she remains undeterred in her fight for Robert’s release. 60 years is a punishment that does not fit the crime.
Meanwhile, Bradley shows how Fox has used her experience to inspire others - using her voice to help the voiceless. We watch Fox make many, powerful speeches. Hers is a commanding presence. She is controlled and yet passionate, polished and yet plainspoken.
As the documentary moves into its final act, we hold our breath as Fox waits for news of Robert’s potential release. Time’s conclusion is incredible moving - an exquisite portrait of the collateral damage of the US justice system and the resilience of love.