Documentary Review: “Met While Incarcerated” (2018) ★★★★

Courtesy of TARO PR

Love! What is it? How’s it even possible that we humans who are capable of so much compassion can feel sorry for one but be indifferent to others? And when someone falls deeply in love, we jump into conclusions by judging the individual we don’t even know in person since we like labeling – a ‘wrong man or woman’? The question is, are we in the position to measure the wrongness or the rightness of love or give our own opinion on how the heart of a fellow citizen should feel when it’s none of our business? And what if the person who’s being loved has committed a vicious crime, is an inmate, or someone on death row? What then?

In a world full of harshness, injustice, killing, lying, corruption, poverty, and lack of dignity and respect, there are people who fight for the right of their heart – to love. There is no question about why without any prior romantic relationship the heroines of Met While Incarcerated fall for the men society calls monsters and later on agree to marry them. It happens. It did happen before Shakespearean time and it did after. Catherine Legge’s produced, written, and directed documentary invites the viewers to the world of prison wives, their life choices, insights, and more importantly, why the men they were looking to grow older with were, ironically, found in a place no one in the right mind would look – in prison.

First, we meet a woman with a fate-defining name, Journey, and her relationship with an inmate named Benjamin Reed. Shortly after we learn why he was sent to jail, however, it’s his love for Journey and her love for him that the film mainly tries to concentrate on. They never met each other before. But what they feel for each other is stronger than some married couple that got tired of each other after years of marriage. Then, we are introduced to another couple, Angela and Michael Taylor, an inmate on death row who waits for his execution to be resumed if Louisiana fails to come up with decent prison reform. And then there’s Brenda, another woman who shocks her friends and family after falling for Sonny, a man who has spent 31 years in prison for a violent crime.

Met While Incarcerated is perfect at questing the stereotypes, putting a barricade between the heart and mind and how well the two work together when they are independent of each other. There will be many questions asked by the viewers, such as why and how? But the easy answer is, somebody has to love. Someone must be the light in one’s dark life. These three women were the light at the end of the tunnel for Ben, Sonny, and Michael who were able to find their heart, as Angela says at some point, “buried deep down underneath”.

Prisons or correctional centers can’t provide what humans can even though all those facilities are run by people. What is brilliant about Legge’s film is that it never plants a seed of doubt into the mind of the viewers but rather chooses to become an independent spectator or facilitator so that we, the audience, can better understand the three women from a whole new perspective.

Furthermore, we shall all remember that love is not exclusive to us – to the free people. Everyone must go through that feeling, learn to care, even if that person is the most careless of us all. We can ask prison wives hundreds of times and call out their decision as outrageous by getting close to someone who, as we like to say, should burn in hell. But let’s make no mistake, someone must do what we are not willing to. And there is nothing bad about it.

To conclude, I would like to quote Diana Gabaldon who says perfectly what fits well to Legge’s documentary piece – “I have lived through war and lost much. I know what’s worth the fight and what is not. Honor and courage are matters of the bone and what a man will kill for, he will sometimes die for, too… For the sake of love alone, I would walk through fire again.” That said, what can scare us can bring calm to others. What we hate can be loved by somebody. We can run away from fire while someone else jumps right into it. What we can’t forget can bring redemption to someone. We do make choices. Some are right and some are wrong. But without them, we can’t be called humans. And sometimes some people must go through hell to learn the taste of peaceful life and find their long-lost love. Let’s hope, it was and will always be the case when it comes to the concept of Met While Incarcerated because I want to believe and I hope you will as well.

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