Love conquers all. That is the message at the heart of director Garrett Bradley‘s beautifully touching, poignant yet hopeful documentary Time. Time tells the story of husband and wife, Rob and Fox Rich, who facing desperate times rob a bank in the 1990s resulting in their arrest and ultimate prison sentences. Fox, who is pregnant with twins at the time and already a mother of four, takes a plea and serves 3 1/2 years. Rob, on the other hand, does not take a plea and is given a 60-year sentence. Time tells the story of a formidable wife and mother who fights for over twenty years for the release of her husband and to reform the prison system along the way.
Beautifully shot in black and white and in such a way that makes it feel like you are watching an art-house film, Bradley masterfully blends personal home videos that Fox started filming to so that Rob wouldn’t miss his boys growing up and present-day as Fox, now a prison reform activist and her family fight for Rob’s release and to overcome every obstacle and stereotype that stands in their way. Time seamlessly weaves a story that jumps back and forth between the past and the present, but always with an eye on the future. The story is told in three acts — we open with Fox Rich narrating (and her Louisiana accent and rich tone are perfect for storytelling) as we see what could easily be described as the the “perfect all-American family” — high school sweethearts chasing the “American Dream” and raising their sons. They were on the come-up when life took a turn. Not wanting to give up on everything they had worked so hard for and with their backs against the wall, desperate people do desperate things.
The second act follows Fox, now a “single mother” raising 6 young boys and having to piece her life back together, all the while never losing hope or letting her head drop. After seeing what prison conditions were like, she now embarks on a mission to reform the prison system and take down a system that is overcrowded and unjust. During this time, their boys flourish in spite of the odds being stacked against them — a “single mother” of 6 Black boys with an incarcerated father are not supposed to succeed, let alone excel. Twenty years later, the third act unfolds as the Rich family has never given up hope even as things seemed like they would never work in their favor — the criminal justice is stacked again with poor people and people of color.
Time is a story of love and redemption and not being defined by your limitations. The film does a wonderful job of telling this story from the point of view of the Black wife/mother on the outside fighting to keep her family together (a POV not often the focus when it comes to prison stories) and through the eyes of their children. Even though Rob is not really seen through much of the film, his presence is always felt. Never does the film skirt over the fact that “if you do the crime you do the time” — this isn’t a story about false imprisonment, but of “cruel and unusual punishment.” The prison industrial complex needs bodies (usually Black, brown and poor) to thrive; budgets are never cut (even when other more necessary services are) and non-violent offenders are being kept for unreasonable periods of time because it serves their bottom line. That is the system the Rich family is fighting.
Time and Fox Rich’s story gives a voice to the voiceless. It is a LOVE story — “Life’s Only Valid Expression.” It is a story of never giving up and keeping the faith; a story of boys becoming men, in spite of not having their father physically in their lives, but through the right guidance and support — it takes a village. It is a story of a resilient Black woman who is resilient and a fighter who never gives up even when it seems like she should. “Time” shines a spotlight on an issue placing Black, brown and poor communities but changes the narrative about that plight — it is not depressing and bleak, but hopeful and inspirational.
We got the chance to talk to Director Garrett Bradley and Fox and Rob Rich about what Time means to them and what they want viewers to take away from this film. We would like to thank them for taking the time to chat with us. “Time” will be available to stream on Amazon Prime starting October 16, 2020.