"McLeary and Aldous are relentless with making sure this comes across as unfiltered and as true as if you are in the room with them"
Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous's new documentary ‘The Work’ delves into Folsom Prison, California, and shows convicts as we have never seen them before.
The title refers to the type of work being used in prison to rehabilitate convicts and citizens alike; four men from outside join the group therapy sessions to deal with their own issues. After introducing themselves to the group the outsiders were told to pick two convicts, who they wanted to get into a group with, and later on were joined into larger groups, facilitators also joined each group to ease the sessions. This documentary filmed the four days of this intense therapy session.
Admittedly, just as the four men took a while to warm up to the work being done, it took me a while to warm up to the whole concept. What with the group being filmed, seemingly quiet and reluctant to join the conversation and the facilitators encouraging their emotions to come forward, it came off as slightly contrived. Of course, the average viewer, having not been in their position: in prison for years and forced to lock up my feelings deep within in fear of being killed for coming across as ‘soft’; so that faded quickly. I was also quite fearful for the prisoners who had to go back to their cells at the end of the day as opposed to the citizens who opted to be there and could go home to a normal day routine. After watching the convicts go through the motions and break down, however, something clicked and the concept came through more clearly, and the statistics don’t’ lie – a large portion of convicts who went through ‘the work’ and got to leave the prison never returned.
It is not an easy watch; seeing men recounting what it is that got them to in their current predicament and the consequences of this on their state of being. There are many harrowing scenes, one after the other, and as directors, McLeary and Aldous are relentless with making sure this comes across as unfiltered and as true as if you are in the room with them.
If the purpose of this documentary was to show how ugly and soul wrenching incarceration can be, the life long affects of it and the amount of work that has to be done to rehabilitate an offender, doing so without any judgment, it has truly succeeded.