Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 2020. Concordia Studio. Cinematography by Nisa East, Zac Manuel, Justin Zweifach. Produced by Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino. Music by Edwin Montgomery, Jamieson Shaw. Film Editing by Gabriel Rhodes.
Time is a concept in any movie, it’s the space in which watching a film takes place in, and it’s a theme we’re made to grapple with in multiple ways in this powerful, moving documentary. Sibil Fox Richardson (better known as Fox Rich) has raised her six children more or less on her own for decades, ever since her husband Robert Richardson went to prison on a sixty-year sentence for armed robbery. Robert was her first love and they married young, starting their family and operating a business that ran into hard times and prompted their foolish, criminal decision to get cash quickly. Sentenced in 1997, she was released after five years after accepting a plea that that he rejected, and for twenty five years has been mother and father to their kids while fighting tirelessly for her husband’s release. Arguing that Robert’s sentence was excessive for a first-time offender, Rich continued to pursue an early release while also building up a successful business on her own and, at the point that we meet her, is preparing her older children for their own very bright futures. She met director Garrett Bradley in 2016 and turned over hundreds of hours of home movie footage that is woven into the filmmaker’s own footage of this family’s current life. Doubtless the film’s request for sympathy will meet with controversy among viewers, Robert is not a wrongly accused innocent man and his crime was not a petty one, but the film effectively draws you into the family’s world regardless of how you feel about what brought them to this position. What Bradley assembles defies one’s stereotypical ideas of the life that convicts leave behind and the power of a determined individual to change their lives for the better no matter what the odds. Fox Rich is herself a guarded subject but a fascinating one, we have the opportunity to see her evolve into the powerful speaker and activist that she is today despite the fact that there clearly are more complicated feelings she has about life, family, her husband and the justice system that she is not sharing with us. Regardless she is a formidable personality who has conquered the cruelties of time by holding fast to what she believes in long enough to make her dreams come true.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Documentary Feature