Review: Life Without Parole

Directed by Jill Frechie, co-produced with John Ricciutti, the story of George Martorano who is the longest serving prisoner, first time, non-violent offender in judicial history. Martorano also served almost 5 years in solitary confinement.

It’s long been documented that there are a great deal of laws in the United States, typically related to drugs, which result in unjustly long sentences for minor crimes. Life Without Parole gives a superb example of one such law, a first time offender finding himself in prison for no less than thirty two years for a non-violent offence. It makes a very clear case for reform, and depressingly is likely only one of countless examples. However, interestingly while this is a sincerely sombre topic, the filmmakers here take a hopeful tone. It brings in the second chance at life received by George Martorano into the style of the film. It’s a choice which may not work for everyone but given that it’s incredibly typical to take a harder hitting, stoic line on such topics, it’s a unique spin.

However, at times it may start to feel a touch over casual, but this is in part due to the editing, it moves at a fast pace and doesn’t really give time for things to settle in before it’s onto the next. It brings a certain edge which makes slightly too apparent its intended purpose as a concept short. It’s an overtly common reason for short film but there’s still a need to make it be able to stand on its own feet and this example struggles with that. The visual style is also a touch messy, there’s a huge dose of variety for its brief runtime and it feels as though it needs more consistency to rein things in.

One of the great aspects of any documentary is following subjects who are unique, charismatic, or overtly honest and Martorano fits nicely in that requirement. Audiences are always fascinated by anything to do with crime families, and judging by the little we hear from him, Martorano clearly has some stories up his sleeve. It’s also simply a positive experience to see that he never gave up and can still be an upbeat, hopeful person after having spent so many years in oppression.

Life Without Parole is another clear example of much needed reforms in the United States, following an interesting character, with a charismatic personality. The visual style is slightly messy, it could use a bigger dose of consistency to bring a sincerity to its story, instead resulting in something that feels very casual. There’s a lot to try and fit in, in its short run time but there’s clearly more story to be told.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10

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