I don’t know that the average person thinks about prison or what our incarceration system is like but in this documentary, we are introduced to the story of Sybil Richardson who goes by Fox Rich, and her husband Rob. Fox has spent twenty years fighting to get her husband out of prison after he was sentenced to 60 years for a robbery in which no one was harmed. I found this a deeply personal and moving experience, the film intimate in the use of video diaries that Fox made to provide Rob with a document of his family while he was imprisoned. For me, I have a family member who’s been in prison so this was personal and easy for me to understand and empathize but even for those who do not have that connection, this film will bring you a deeper understanding of the complexities of prison life and an appreciation of the beauty of this intimate portrait of love.
Directed and produced by Garrett Bradley, the film focuses on Fox, a fighter, entrepreneur, and mother of six boys. The film blends new and old footage that is brought together by Fox’s passion and love. As she talks to the camera, her focus is on her love for her husband Rob but also keeping alive the connection of family for both Rob and his sons. She evades or hides the truths of her family and their experiences which is what makes this documentary so powerful. As she explains, she and her husband were driven by financial desperation to a foolish act, to rob their local credit union. Driving the getaway vehicle, Fox made a plea bargain and only served 3 and ½ years while Robert was sentenced to sixty in a robbery that left those impacted physically unharmed. Through battles with the legal system, using lawyers and resources, Fox was able to obtain freedom for her husband after twenty years, it still left them separated for that span of time and her sons fatherless all through poverty and because the law is inequitable towards people of color.
While the film is never linear, each slice of time carries a message of hope and love, still conveys the deep pain and loss that Fox and her sons feel over the separation. Tripping from moments of play, study, and speeches, the lack of chronological order does not inhibit the emotional weight of their struggles. But it is never just about struggle. As Fox frames herself in the camera views, we also see strength, love, and a fierce ability to fight for what she believes. There are those who say if you did the crime, do the time but they don’t understand the complexities of prison or the inequities built into the system. Fox details some of these, explaining you can’t understand if you haven’t experienced this situation. Prisoners get visits twice monthly for only two hours a day. For those without money, they’re unable to afford lawyers or decent help. Those who can get lighter sentences or even probation. If you look at the prison system statistically, the greater number incarcerated are people of color which adds weight and truth to Fox’s plight. Would they have been imprisoned or had lighter sentences if they’d been white? It is difficult to know for sure but I doubt Robert’s sentence would have been 60 years.
The footage is black and white, blending together the past and the present and softening the videos into pictures of love, as we meet Fox’s sons, Freedom and Justus, who she was pregnant with when Robert was imprisoned. We get moments with her other four sons and her mother who praises Fox for the model she provides for her sons, the strength she instills in them. While Fox understands the impact, the ripples of what her choices have led her to, she still argues for justice and empathy, displaying the same to those around her even in her pain. And she holds onto her family through it all.
This documentary is a mesmerizing portrait of resilience and love, the type of love necessary to endure twenty years of separation. And not only campaign but succeed against the country’s prison-industrial complex. Even without having a similar experience, those who view this movie will experience empathy, will gain a better understanding of the complexities of the prison system, and perhaps leave them with compassion towards those incarcerated and the families they love. The movie is a love letter towards family, love, and justice and you will not be able to watch it without being moved. I know I was in tears when I witnessed the joy on Robert’s face when he walked out of prison to his wife and children. I believe others will be equally moved.
Time is already out in limited release at select theaters and is available for streaming through Amazon Prime Video Friday, October 16, 2020.