Film Review: The Work

In terms of documentary filmmaking, one of the most powerful and frequently covered areas of focus over the past few years has been prison and the criminal justice system. Nowhere is more fascinating, worrying or perplexing than America. Solitary, Into the Abyss and last year’s Academy Award-nominated The 13th all call into question the merits of incarceration. Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest and the SXSW Grand Jury Award, The Work looks at a unique approach to rehabilitation.

Set in one room in Folsom Prison, Gethin Aldous and Jairus McLeary’s documentary focusses on a radical new process. Three men from the outside enter into a four-day intensive group therapy retreat with maximum security convicts. This takes the form of delving deep into their backgrounds and lives to discover why they’ve ended up behind bars. The Inside Circle Program produces some devastating results, both for those incarcerated and those on the outside.

The Work is an incredibly powerful and profound film about what makes us human. By unburdening the men of their greatest frustrations, fears and hang-ups, it illustrates how alike we all are. Whilst the effect on those sentenced to spend most, if not all, of their lives behind bars is extremely compelling, it’s the reaction of the ‘outsiders’ which leaves a lasting mark. The Work should be seen by everyone. We all have our inner demons, whether we can control them or not. Only by exorcising those devils can we truly move on in our lives. Cages are not just physical.

The Work is out in cinemas from Friday 8 September. There are special previews next week from Monday.

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