Indie Focus: A family faces the system in ‘Time’


Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

Another week and more bad news for movie theaters. Ryan Faughnder wrote about the “crisis point” for the exhibition industry and the shutdown of Regal Cinemas’ 536 theaters in the U.S. The announcement came just days after the next James Bond film, “No Time To Die,” moved from a planned November opening date to April of next year.

As economic analyst Eric Wold put it, “We have stressed for some time that the exhibition industry restart is out of the hands of the exhibitors. But if the studios continue to push out the release window, there may not be anything around when they are ready.”


Jen Yamato wrote about the release of “Possessor Uncut,” the freaky, disturbing sci-fi horror tale from filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg starring Andrea Riseborough as an assassin who hacks into other people’s brains to use them as instruments of murder.

“That feeling of being so unavoidably absorbed by or dissolved into another human being’s experience and then having to come back to what one might call one’s own, which is then completely alien, was hugely familiar,” said Riseborough. “It’s very much like acting, but without the killing.”

Amy Kaufman untangled “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” in which filmmaker Kirsten Johnson made a film about her father after he was diagnosed with dementia by staging and filming versions of his death over and over again.

“Screw death, man!” Johnson said. “I really do think cinema is time travel. When we’re watching people we love through movies, they’re alive for us. So I was like: ‘Can I ask cinema to keep my father alive forever?’ I was going to use every capacity I had to try to figure out what we could do to change this reality.”

Woody Allen’s long-delayed “A Rainy Day in New York,” starring Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning and Selena Gomez, is finally being released in theaters in the U.S. and soon heading to digital platforms. And while it is not opening in Los Angeles, I reviewed it anyway, calling it “lowest-tier Allen, certainly unworthy of any perception as the embattled work it has become. … It’s actually been nice to have a break from Woody Allen. The abrasive petulance of his memoir [‘Apropos of Nothing’] only underscored his ongoing refusal to reflect or grow, while the indifferent writing and direction of ‘A Rainy Day in New York’ feels like more of the same.”

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Directed by Garrett Bradley, the deeply moving documentary “Time” is the story of Sibil Fox Richardson, who goes by Fox Rich, as she fights for more than 20 years to get her husband, Robert Richardson, freed from prison where he is serving a 60-year sentence. At the same time, she raises their sons and tries to simply live life. The film is a portrait of a family and a searing portrayal of the inequities of the prison system. Weaving together intimate archival home video with newer material, Bradley won the documentary directing prize when the film premiered earlier this year at Sundance. The film is now in limited release where theaters are open and will be streaming on Amazon Prime beginning Oct. 16.

For The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “The devastating loss they feel is somehow made more acute, rather than less, by the very real counterpresence of joy, success and fulfillment in their lives. ‘Time’ is a patchwork of moments big and small. Most of all, we see Rich gradually (though not always chronologically) coming into her own, whether she’s publicly reckoning with her long-ago crime at church, taping a TV commercial for the car dealership she now runs or speaking publicly about the pain of growing older without her husband — and seeing her boys grow up without their father.”

For the New York Times, Lisa Kennedy wrote, “If one judges a story of crushing absence by the ache of its homecoming, ‘Time’ doesn’t disappoint. Nor does it end with a scene of ‘closure.’ (How could it? So much lies ahead for Fox and Rob Rich, and their sons.) Instead the documentary rewinds through the archival footage to a kiss — before the time, before the crime. We could see this reversal as merely a gesture of hope. But consider the final moments of ‘Time’ a different kind of restorative justice — one signaling a family’s reset while acknowledging so much that was lost.”

For Rolling Stone, K. Austin Collins wrote, “This isn’t a true crime documentary. And in the first place, there’s an argument to be made — in fact, ‘Time’ convincingly makes it — for asking fewer questions about what people did to ‘deserve’ imprisonment and more about prison’s impact, not only on the people inside but on the people waiting for them to come home. For this family and many others, incarceration is the absence of a father. It’s an absence that structures the rest of the family’s life. … Bradley opts to make us feel that absence — to witness it, reckon with it, be shocked by it.”

For Hyperallergic, Beandrea July wrote, “Both technically inventive and deeply moving, ‘Time’ is a miracle of a film that offers an affecting look at the criminal justice system’s impact on Black families, through a Black feminist lens.”

Fox Rich in the movie "Time."
(Amazon Studios)

‘Totally Under Control’

Directed by Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, “Totally Under Control” is a devastating summation of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States and the failure of federal leadership to handle it, featuring information from as recently as the past few weeks. The film screens tonight at the Vineland Drive-In; it will be available Oct. 13 on VOD and launches on Hulu on Oct. 20.

Amy Kaufman spoke to Gibney, Harutyunyan and Hillinger, who were never in the room together while working on the film, about making the project quickly and quietly and getting it out before the upcoming election.

As Gibney said, “You want to have some way of holding officials to account and some information with which to do that. So here was a report card on the handling of the pandemic that people could reflect on prior to casting their vote. This was a film that was really about competence, No. 1. None of us wanted this to be seen as political, in terms of Democrat versus Republican. Also, in my own experience, I felt like it was a crime film. It was a crime of negligence and a crime of fraud. And those crimes, prosecuted in the court of public opinion, have a massive death toll.”

Reviewing for The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “‘Totally Under Control’ is both a slow-motion tragedy and a sickening rush; it compresses roughly nine months of steadily mounting tension and chaotic freefall into two hours. That’s a pretty concentrated dose of outrage, and maybe a redundant one for anyone who’s been following the news. But even with the occasional repetitions and oversights that come with ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling, there is something bracing about seeing the bigger picture laid out as clearly and forcefully as it is here.”

For The Guardian, Charles Bramesco wrote, ”Gibney’s script collates a large volume of developments into a cohesive timeline pitting the Trump White House against the independent agencies dedicated to keeping the public safe; the mandate to project a positive image versus the expanding inferno of reality. Access proves a most vital asset, the producers’ connections affording us a front-row seat to the cascading policy failures. … All said, there are less educational ways to raise your blood pressure for two hours, and the masochistic Twitter-refreshers nourishing themselves with a steady drip of maddening headlines will have plenty to fume over. Starting with the sniggering title, this torturous rehashing of yesterday’s history all seems to be for them.”

A scene from the documentary "Totally Under Control."

‘Yellow Rose’

Directed and co-written by Diane Paragas, “Yellow Rose” is a story of showbiz ambitions and immigrant struggles that feels both timely and timeless. Broadway star Eva Noblezada (“Hadestown”) makes her film debut as Rose Garcia, a Filipina teen living in Texas who dreams of becoming a country music star. When her mother (Princess Punzalan) is detained in an ICE raid, Rose’s vision of the American dream changes drastically.

Reviewing for The Times, Katie Walsh wrote, “The film — and Noblezada — hit a stride and find a sense of flow, making for an affecting portrayal of a young woman finding her footing against all odds, and claiming her home in a nation that makes it unduly challenging. ‘Yellow Rose’ is infused with a deep love and appreciation for the music culture and history of Austin, a place where Rose just makes sense as a singer, songwriter and storyteller expressing her true experiences from the heart. That her story is one of struggling to fit in, of losing her mother to an overreaching and inhumane government, not only ties her to the greatest country artists of the past, it makes her tale achingly, and appropriately, contemporary.”

For the New York Times, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim bemoaned the film’s use of the white-savior cliché, in this case an unexpectedly kindly ICE agent, writing, “It’s a shame considering all the lovely notes that ‘Yellow Rose’ manages to hit, notably with the lushly lit bar scenes and Noblezada’s emotionally nuanced, honey-voiced performance (her debut screen role). Above all, the music has the greatest staying power — it is the film’s saving grace, just like it is Rose’s during her darkest days.”

Eva Noblezada in the movie "Yellow Rose."