Criterion Review: TIME

Garrett Bradley’s outstanding documentary enters the Criterion Collection with a worthy release.

For 81 breathtaking minutes, Garrett Bradley’s Academy Award-nominated documentary Time does the impossible. Centered on the story of Sibil Fox Richardson and her family, the film covers Richardson’s day to day life as a woman raising a family, building a career, and working tirelessly to get her husband out of jail. At its heart, the thing Time does better than just about any film I can recall is capture the abstract nature of time, love, hope, progress, pain, and despair. Bradley could’ve made a film that stretched on for hours and hours, and with over two decades of footage to cull from, the opportunity was there. Bradley and editor Gabriel Rhodes have crafted something that transcends the concept of time, filtering it through the experience of the Richardson family while constantly reminding us that the Richardson’s experience is both specific and universal. Available on Amazon Prime, Time now has a physical release worthy of its stature, via the Criterion Collection.

“My story is the story of over two million people.”

Fox and Robert Richardson participated in a robbery in the mid 1990s and were sentenced to prison for it. Fox was released after three and half years while Robert stayed incarcerated, serving a 60 year sentence. While Time focuses on their experience, Fox and Bradley constantly remind viewers that this story is one of millions playing out across the country. Time is all encompassing and Time conveys that in every frame. By highlighting Robert’s absence from his family, we see the reverberations of a punitive justice system and how it compounds trauma, passing it on to families and communities. It’s one thing to want to hold someone accountable for their actions; it’s a completely other thing to see dehumanization in progress. To see Fox and Robert’s sons growing up with an absence in their home is to see heartbreak personified.

Time is a miracle deserving of its place in the Criterion Collective. It is staggering to convey how long it takes to achieve progress while also showing how quickly time goes by. Despite its recency, Time threads the needle between being timely and timeless. It’s an important document of the Richardson family, but of also the state of the country and world at large. Criterion gives the film its due with a worthy release. Bradley’s commentary track is exceptionally insightful. She speaks at length about the Richardsons themselves, bringing additional context to the film. She’s candid throughout the commentary and enhances the documentary. Perhaps the most insightful aspect, however, is Bradley’s discussion of the filmmaking process. Distilling over 100 hours of archival footage with the new material shot for the film is a Herculean task. Bradley speaks at length about what her goals were, and also notes regrets along the way, like when she laments not spending more time conveying how much physical space is dedicated to keeping people incarcerated. The candor about the content and form enhances the viewing experience.

The other features on the release follow the informative nature of the commentary. There’s an interview with Fox and Robert, as well as a conversation between Bradley and critic and author Hilton Als. Rounding out the release is an essay by critic Doreen St. Félix and Bradley’s short film Alone, which put Fox Richardson on her map and started the process that would result in Time.

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