The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


All the Time in the World

There have been lots of movies about people going off the grid and living in the wilderness for extended periods of time. Sean Penn's Into the Wild is a stellar example, as is the Reese Witherspoon drama Wild. What makes All the Time in the World different from those films is that it's a documentary. You get to see real people roughing it in real locations, without trailers, personal assistants, or anything else actors would have while they pretended to live amongst nature.

Suzanne Crocker and her husband Gerard take their three kids, ages 10, 8, and 4 (plus their dog and two cats) into the Yukon to live for nine months. Their goal is to spend more quality time as a family, to be more attentive to one another's needs. Their home is a tiny wooden cabin. They have a boat and a few other necessities, but no cell phones, no clocks, and no watches. No electronic gizmos, either. The film follows them through these months, as the seasons change and they learn to adapt to a different lifestyle. Voiceover narration from all the family members – recorded after the fact – clues us in to their thoughts and feelings.

Some viewers will intensely dislike Suzanne and Gerard. What they do may seem vastly irresponsible. They take their children away from their schools and their friends, then plunk them in the middle of nowhere, with no peer socialization. This breeds a lot of questions. What if one of the kids gets sick or has a medical emergency? What if something happens to the parents, leaving the kids alone? (That's a real fear, given that Gerard shows a repeated lack of concern for safety.) And what about making them use an outhouse in the dead of winter, when the coldest day is a jaw-dropping -51 degrees?

Other viewers will perceive them as admirable for daring to shuck society's conventions, as well as for their attempt to generate unrestricted family time. They will respect the effort to connect with their children (who, admittedly, seem to dig the experience) in a deeper manner. Honestly, it doesn't matter which way you feel about them, because those varying perspectives give All the Time in the World a provocative quality. This is a movie that could spark useful discussion and debate, not only about what these particular individuals do, but also about how to achieve meaningful familial relationships in an era where so many disparate things compete for our attention.

It also helps that what this family does is inherently fascinating, agree with it or not. Things start off with a bad omen. They plan to sleep in a tent the first night, only to make a last-minute decision to sleep in the cabin instead. When they wake up, the tent has been destroyed by a bear. From there, the documentary quickly settles into showing how they adapt to life without the distractions of the contemporary world. It seems to generate creativity. The kids make their own puzzles and games, find ways to entertain themselves, and enjoy homemade ice cream. Holidays are celebrated with great originality. For instance, they have to trick-or-treat at their own cabin, so they walk around the structure again and again; the parents have on different homemade costumes each time they answer the door.

Of course, a lot of work goes into “not working.” A huge chunk of time every day is spent making food. (Their diet is generally limited to things like beans and powdered milk.) Wood must continually be gathered for heat. Once a month, Gerard makes a dangerous trek back to civilization to check on his job; the others have no way of knowing whether he makes the passage safely or not. This way of life may seem “simpler,” but it isn't. It does, however, require everyone to work together, which breeds a unique form of bonding.

All the Time in the World ignores some things that really should have been included, such as information about how Suzanne and Gerard could afford to take off work for nine months, and whether Child Welfare Services knew about their plan. It's also suspicious that no conflict is ever shown. Nine months in a confined space and people don't get on each other's nerves? Highly doubtful. Also, because Crocker directed the film herself, there's little doubt that it's assembled to send the message she wants to send, as opposed to the message an impartial director might have found in her footage.

There's a more incisive documentary to be made on this subject for those reasons. Still, All the Time in the World keeps you watching and wondering, while simultaneously challenging your own viewpoint on life in the modern day.

( out of four)

All the Time in the World is unrated, but contains nothing especially objectionable. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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