Top Ten Movies of 2020 — Number Six

Garrett Bradley’s documentary Time is awash in the uncommon power that comes from a moral outrage expressed with tough simplicity. The film spends most of its time with Sibil Fox Richardson, who carries her family through the reverberating pain of a long-past mistake. Sibil and her husband, Rob, were in a desperate place, so desperate that the undertook an ill-fated plan to forestall financial ruin by participating in a bank robbery. Both were incarcerated. Sibil’s sentence was fairly short. Rob’s stretched decades. Generously employing video shot by Sibil so Rob would have a record of her and their children’s lives when he was way, Time is an empathetic, piercing depiction of people trying to rebuild — to achieve the rehabilitation that the justice system is supposed to deliver — in the face of uncaring societal structures that are willfully blind to their efforts, and indeed their very humanity. Bradley artfully assembles the film to ensure that Sibil and Rob, and the millions of people across the nation who are similarly rejected as unworthy of fair-minded attention, are finally seen. By intent, the film is fragmentary, moving back and forth across the years and evidencing a reluctance to blatantly spell out its theses. By working in telling impressions, Bradley underlines the long stretch the family is separated and the hard work they do on their own to seek atonement, despite the clear, crushing sense that no one is prepared to reward them for the committed betterment of their selves. Time is hardly rare as a modern illustration and argument that the nation’s prison-industrial complex is poisoned by bigotry and offhand hatred. It distinguishes itself by covering this territory with an admirable insistence that this is not a story of politics; it is a story of people.

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