________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


Inside Time.

Jason Young (Writer & Director). Annette Clarke (Producer). Kent Martin (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2007.
35 min., 8 sec., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9107 238.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

*** /4

Back in grade 10, I was told that, as one gets older, time goes faster. I thought that was nonsense at the time, but 30 years later, that conversation seems like yesterday. As the days seem to go by like minutes, I often wonder if time goes as quickly for those in prison.

     In Inside Time, this question is not really answered, but it does get a good going over. Stephen Reid, famous for a number of pursuits, was a member of the infamous "StopWatch Gang"-although he admits that of the 140 robberies, he actually used the stopwatch maybe five times.  However, the name stuck.

     Part of the film is a biography in which Reid tells his story. Sexually abused as a young boy, he feels that a part of time was taken from him and it has "frozen him in time, in a way." He left home at 13 for the streets of Vancouver. In the drug subculture there, doing drugs became his career:"being a heroin addict is a full time job." As human beings, we seek comfort and safety. Reid claims that, as an addict, he had the "warm blanket" of heroin around him. It made him feel safe. As the world went on around him, it could not hurt him anymore. He describes his time between 13 and 16 as a "blur of fun." He was living "a kid's dream"; he was invincible. Invincible maybe, but he ended up in prison. At this stage of his life, he would spend his time planning escapes or thinking about what he would do when his sentence was up. Time then was something to get through and then he could start living again.

     At 30, after three escapes, he began to reflect on his life. A distance seemed to be growing inside him so he took to writing. He looked up the word "escape" and saw it defined as a "temporary relief from circumstances." The word 'temporary' chewed at him. With writing, he was able to engage his mind and his creativity. He was able to "sit in his own present, his own now." He admits that we all want to tell our own stories. His success in writing brought him a new fame. People came to him for advice about writing and to hear what prison life was like. Sadly, this became a trap of its own. He felt like he was "holding up a puppet and people were talking to the puppet".

     Reid was released in 1987 and had "some quality years," but this started to break down in the 1990s. In 1999, he attempted another bank robbery, but admits that the whole thing could have been a farce of his former self. He took too long in the bank (he never would have done that before), he shot at the police, became front page news in a standoff situation and "destroyed the reformed Stephen Reid persona."

     Back in jail at 50, Reid was told by a psychiatrist that his life was basically over unless he concentrates on his 10-year-old daughter. She has to see that "even a big screw-up like this can be overcome." If he can do that, then "that would be his real legacy-not his fame as a bank robber or
a writer."

     Inside Time is a very philosophical film. Reid learned early that waiting for time to pass is not living. He states that people do that all the time. “Retirement will save me from this boring job. Salvation will save me from this horrible life.” In prison, he saw that life was going on while he was waiting to be released. He discovered that he "was sentenced to place, but time was his own." All understanding comes from introspection.

     The interesting aspect of this film is that, while Reid has this insight, his life still spiraled downward. Listening to him, one is taken by his personality and intelligence and, yet, things just did not work out for him as they should have. He has many more years to serve so it will be interesting to see how his life continues to unfold.

     As a film, Inside Time might not work in a high school setting. Reid is filmed face on as he tells his story, and each segment is broken by scenes of a spider spinning a web and shots of midway rides. After awhile, these transitions get tedious. The actual film could have been shot in less than 20 minutes without the fill. However, the information in the film would work well in a Law class or Ethics, Philosophy or Psychology at the senior level. Stephen Reid is a complex person. He does not fit the perceived model of a bank robber (whatever that is). For this reason alone, the film has merit. For those teaching More Joy in Heaven or Go-Boy, this film would be an interesting companion piece. While I do “Recommend” Inside Time, I also suggest fast-forwarding.


Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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