As the saying goes, man is born free but everywhere he is in chains. If practical estimates are to be taken, human individuality gets locked up either in gilded cages or in actual prisons. We see it with our eyes wide open, knowing that every enslavement is shaped by human hands and our resolve breaks and disintegrates when too many opposing voices get in our way. But the human voice is the most potent counterpoint to outrages and ostracization since by speaking out and refusing to observe indefinite silences, we challenge the status quo.
Garrett Bradley’s empathetic documentary TIME identifies with the voice that just doesn’t let itself be victimised by social networks of discrimination. Its subject and voice of reason is Sibil Richardson/Fox Rich, a woman who is so flawlessly determined in her fight to free her husband from the confines of an ill-defined prison industrial system that her words drive home the poignancy of her loss, quite literally, in this case. She is a compelling central figure since she records her life script, with each minute moment and big payoff in her fight for justice, in video diaries, to uncompromisingly capture the essence of family.
The camera is her most intimate friend, processing in real time the depths of her journey, from crushing personal grief to the joy of watching her sons grow up to be strong and confident, educated individuals, stepping on the precipice of a life with the backlog of their parents’ backgrounds in tow. It is her all-seeing eye, serving as both technical support system and a cathartic source. But her voice occupies her narrative powerfully, employing its vulnerability and extraordinary sense of fortitude over the course of two decades. Bradley harnesses her visual journal to craft a full-length exploration of human agency under duress. Trust me when I say that Ms. Fox’s belief in her husband’s freedom and, in turn, her family’s emotional emancipation, is totally unwavering even as the indifference of racist authorities shatters her from the inside.
TIME is obviously about the passage of the titular entity, refusing to gloss over its subject’s own rash decisions leading to the point of change for her family and offsetting it with her mother’s worldly wise moral take on our choices determining the course of our future, without being a judgemental springboard or diluting its compassionate whole. Mostly, it’s about actions seen through the prism of an unequal society. TIME is ultimately a personalized narrative that earns its triumph by its final passage. However, the voice of reason keeps prodding at the long road taken to reach that end of the line as it’s never a final destination, not when similar narratives abound still.
By dint of its storytelling voice and visual style, fluent, sophisticated in its articulation and with the jazz musical score underscoring the improvisatory nature of each unpredictable moment as it unfolds, it transcends the threshold of pain or melancholy to capture hope without bypassing the impact of all put together. It is an upholder of unvarnished realities.
THE PEREZ FAMILY
It’s not just a coincidence that THE PEREZ FAMILY, which preceded my viewing of TIME today by a week and a half, is also about the passage of individuals from their native land towards a place they can call home. One of the protagonists here, namely Juan, is a political prisoner who is released from the confines of his country’s socio-political turmoil and has lost contact with his family, settled in Miami for two decades. You see, the issue of unlawful incarceration and a separation of two decades unite both narratives.
Only here, from the passage by sea to the hordes of Cubans made to live in a stadium which serves as their temporary home, the people unite and some of them integrate their acquaintances acquired during the course of this journey to construct a familial bond of their own. It’s a tale of the immigrants’ progress to Miami, pointing at the rough edges of the American Dream as also the Cuban-American diaspora in Miami, a community that has thrived and cemented its roots there for decades.
THE PEREZ FAMILY is beautifully written and directed by the truly global filmmaker MIRA NAIR, the Indian luminary who knows how to straddle worlds in principle. Just around 2019, she canned her series A SUITABLE BOY in and around my very locality as also some of the landmarks of my city Lucknow. Here too, she infuses the spirit of these people with the flavour of their distinct voice, with humour and a welcome dose of local aesthetic to aid their progress.
The most poignant aspect of its veracity is the unrequited voice of love for those who are not bound to us by blood bonds or conjugal connection but nevertheless forge a long lasting relationship with us over a shared identity. ALFRED MOLINA and ANGELICA HUSTON are wonderfully close to their instincts, for grasping the complexity of pining for each other through two decades of separation and yet rebuilding their present, with the voice of love guiding them towards steady partnerships with other people. But it’s MARISA TOMEI as Dorita, a supreme scene stealer, who is pure gold as the individual leaving her dreary life in Cuba behind to chase the silver linings in Miami, with her love for Elvis, John Wayne and joie de vivre utterly enrapturing us. Her spirited voice of hope and fearlessness, for a future in her adopted land dispels the doubts associated with the sketchy reality of seeking asylum there. This trifecta of performers authenticate millions of immigrant dreams, making them specific and universal. With salsa legend CELIA CRUZ in the mix, it tugs at the voice of joy developing in hearts adrift and yet tethered firmly to their roots.
But it’s MARISA who symbolizes the true voice of freedom.
Finally there is the voice of rebellion that is pipped up against imperialism, as evidenced by the legend of the Scottish hero ROB ROY, much like William Wallace from the same locational provenance.
It’s Jessica Lange who utilizes her wit and concern to not only showcase her voice of love for her husband(Liam Neeson) but also makes way for passages of bitterness, practicality and the kind of push and pull dynamic one expects in a marital unit, especially when challenges are posed by outsiders threatening to sully its sanctity. So even as not so lovely words are exchanged between them, we appreciate how its emphasis on domestic struggles do not confine it to the panorama of history alone or just hagiographic male ego.
Lange is the central voice here. Watch her reaction to a bodily outrage visited upon her by the enemy and the moral complexity that she sets herself towards. It’s a slow burning charge, rescuing her from being another female endnote to a larger clash among men, in the fight against cruelty. ROB ROY benefits from her voice of intervention, limited as it is or was historically, Ms. Lange enhances its impact. The final return of the titular protagonist to hearth and security of being with the woman who bid for reason, is proof of that.