Making Time focuses on multiple people who are involved in the world of watches and time. As experts in horology, designers and watchmakers, they are the people who preserve the watch as an art form and share how their personal life stories are tied to watches. Through their journeys, the viewer begins to understand why watches still might have value in a world of digital time keeping.
Time frames its narrative around five individuals. First and foremost, the film follows world renowned Swiss watchmaker Phillipe Dufour, a man praised as the genius carrying on the legacy of 350 years of watchmaking. The second is Brittany Nicole Cox, the storyteller. Cox is one of a few female watchmakers in the world who believes in the power of how these devices capture time and the story of our world. By maintaining the methods that have been used for hundreds of years, Cox’s workshop brings us back in time to when everything was made my hand and for a specific purpose. The next subject is Max Buller, the maverick. Buller is a man who was drawn to watchmaking with his insatiable thirst for creativity and craft. The fourth is Ludovic Boullard who, as a shy kid, was drawn to watchmaking in France and met his wife who has driven his creativity and passion. Lastly, and most surprisingly, is actor Aldis Hodge. It turns out that, along with acting, that he has developed a passion and a skill for watchmaking.
The film ends up splicing together a compilation of short documentaries about these different people. Many of them begin by explaining their personal life stories. Aldis Hodge may have grown up in poverty, but his mom always made sure that they were protected. During that time, Hodge was still able to develop his creative and critical musings about world that led him to acting and watchmaking. Max Buller talks about how a dangerous car accident that should have killed him gave him a new purpose in a life. Ludovic Boullard reveals how he is being pushed in a new direction as his wife, who has always brought a stability to his instable acts of creativity, was diagnosed with a deadly cancer. Phillipe Dufour runs into a woman with a teenage daughter who he takes on as an apprentice and gives her the opportunity to explore the ‘watch world’.
One of the more challenging parts of this documentary is the sheer amount of its subjects. Each of the five main subjects have different people in their lives who drive the direction of their watchmaking and many of them take a different approach to presenting what watchmaking means to them. Some of them are telling stories about their past, others present their philosophical musings about watches and their relationship to the idea of time. The film dedicates segments to following these people as they take on new challenges with different watch-related projects. Unfortunately, these different documentary mediums aren’t often well connected.
Segments are often jarringly connected or vaguely dissipate just to go into the next story with no particular rhyme or reason. It makes the film very demanding on the viewer who are expected to be immediately invested in every new person you meet and as empathetic their stories are, the presentation doesn’t do a lot to add to that. The filming is mostly driven by the look. Most shots try to capture the particular beauty that can be found in the details of a watch or, in its more philosophical moments, using long wide shots that capture whole landscapes and the people in them to create a meditation on time and our place within it. For this reason, the cinematography, while often very nice, can feel a little unnatural for a documentary. It often seems to go for a cinematic beauty that can be found in the work of Terrence Malick and his peers but it never really captures that.
The content itself doesn’t seem very interesting in the way that films like the creation of Facebook, BlackBerry function draw the audience in. Rarely do those moments show up in Making Time. Instead, you get what you expect. The film never commits to exploring the themes that it skims over, such as women in the watchmaking world and time as a concept that affects us all. It doesn’t feel like this film should have been a feature, but rather small shorts that would stay together. For someone interested in this subject matter, I think they’d eat up these people’s stories as shorts on YouTube or other platforms in a day and probably finish all of them as a webseries.
Making Time is available in theatres on Friday, June 30th, 2023.