Three free men with a steady day job decide to join a group therapy organised at the Folsom state prison with some of its most troublesome inmates. The four-day session becomes an immersive experience where, in between tears and screams, men get rid of their shields, their fears and their insecurities. In The Work, it makes no difference whether you are a murderer, an innocent man or a thief: we are all human beings sincerely trying to free ourselves from pain.
Award-winning film at festivals such as SXSW, Sheffield International Documentary Festival and Chicago International Festival, this intensive documentary shot at Folsom offers an insight into the group therapies that are carried between its four walls. Directors Jairus McLeary & Gethin Aldous are capturing this experience with such precision and closeness that viewers can’t help but feel as though they were inside the room with those convicts. The audience witnesses all kinds of talks and techniques that bring the inmates over the edge, one by one, then in waves, to ultimately reveal their most hidden issues.
Besides having to withstand some emotionally unbearable scenes, viewers of The Work need to empathise with its protagonists. Understandably, watching grown men screaming in pain, suffering and disclosing the horrible crimes some of them have committed —these stories coming from neo-nazis, thieves and killers—might make some spectators feel uneasy. However, the documentarians cleverly focus on the three free men and their evolution throughout the movie to bring the viewer to a compelling final reflexion: those convicts might be the ones hurting, but we all withhold some hidden personal traumas inside. And at a group therapy at Folsom state prison, any of us would cry because there are no prisoners, no free men; just people honestly opening up in front of their listening peers.
2017: SXSW Grand Jury Award
2017: Audience Award – Sheffield International Documentary Festival
2017: Nominated for Best Documentary – London Critics Circle Films Awards.
2017: Audience Award – Chicago Film Festival