Hot Docs Review: 'All the Time in the World'

All the Time in the World
(Canada, 87 min.)
Dir. Suzanne Crocker
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (Toronto Premiere)
Family relaxing by campfire in the bush - late Fall
I would love to throw my laptop and smartphone into the river and unplug for a week. It’s virtually impossible to get away from communication and hyper-connectivity nowadays. Even my cottage has WiFi now.

Filmmaker Suzanne Crocker gets the same urge to unplug in All the Time in the World as she and her family escape their busy schedules and move out to the bush in the Yukon for a full year. They live without phones, Internet, running water, and electricity (except for the cameras...) for one year. They seem to love it.

All the Time in the World finds the lost pleasure of spending time with loved ones and living in the moment as Crocker and her three kids get back to basics and enjoy pioneer living without any concern for time or schedules. A year is an awfully long time to go without a trip to Starbucks, but the family does remarkably well without the luxuries that we’ve come to see as necessities. All the Time in the World shows that true connection that still exists on the planet, as opposed to depersonalized mediated conversations that substitute for connection nowadays. The film is sweet and poignant as Crocker emphasizes the time spent with family as a lost art.

Roughing it the woods yields conventional storytelling and rudimentary production value, but audiences are nevertheless bound to be inspired by the film, especially by the spunk of Crocker’s three kids. The scene-stealer of the film, however, is James the cat (the family brings its two cats and its dog Max along for the year) who pokes around the cabin with adorable curiosity. This cat sticks his nose into everything—he even ventures out onto the ice—and seeing this domestic feline thrive in the woods hilariously underscores the pleasure of escaping busy city life.

A late scene in the film, however, leaves one wondering how much the family learns during its holiday. During the spring thaw, a black bear visits the family and pokes its nose around the camp. This bear seems perfectly harmless—it’s just as inquisitive as James the cat is—but the family becomes fearfully threatened by the bear simply for its presence. Almost hysterically so. They shout at the bear and emphasize their safety and their property as they throw rocks and wield a shotgun. I wouldn’t want to be within a literal stone’s throw of a bear myself, but the family’s reaction shows that they took with them the human-centric way of living that has led to the overconsumption, industrialization, and overconnectivity that they sought to escape. Shouldn’t a year in the bush produce a better harmony between man and nature? On the other hand, the scene shows a basic human reaction that occurs when people can’t whip out their smartphones and Google the best course of action.

Not everyone has the luxury to unplug and walk away from life, though, and Crocker somewhat neglects that this escape simply isn’t possible for everyone. Class, income, and social situation leave some people forever tethered to an electronic leash as they work to pay the bills, and the overall mechanization of daily life is something we all have to deal with whether we like it or not. How to adapt to the daily grind in a practical way is a fine art that increasingly escapes us. All the Time in the World presents an idealized solution, albeit it does so with sentimental sweetness.

Rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

All the Time in the World screens again on May 2.
Please visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information on this year’s festival.

All the Time in the World screens in Ottawa at The ByTowne May 9-12
and at The Mayfair June 19-23.