Documentary Releases: 1275 Days (2019) - Reviewed

The third documentary feature film from The Family I Had filmmakers Katie Green and Carlye Rubin 1275 Days follows in the footsteps of their previous film about juvenile delinquent violence while joining Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line by begging the question of whether or not the punishment fits the crime.  Shot over the course of four years, the film follows 16-year old Blake Layman who finds himself charged with murder alongside three other accomplices despite Blake never having pulled the trigger himself. 
Though the homeowner killed one of the burglars in self-defense, the remaining four left alive take the fall irrespective of whether or not they played a direct role in the man’s death.  Given a 55-year prison sentence under the felony murder rule, 1275 Days follows Blake’s mother and girlfriend’s efforts to appeal the conviction and reduce his sentence so he doesn’t lose his whole life to a prison sentence for a crime he didn’t necessarily commit.

A compelling, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with an enormous uphill battle ahead of them as well as a well meaning critique of the judicial system’s tendency to throw the book at criminals, 1275 Days proves to be an involving story chronicling the ordeal endured by what became known as the ‘Elkhart Four’.  The film leaves much of the legalese off the table and instead focuses on the people involved and their emotional states as they try to fight for their loved ones’ innocence. 
While not diving deeply into Blake’s prison time experiences beyond occasional testimonies from Blake himself, 1275 Days mostly concerns the families involved in trying to exonerate him.  Though it leaves out a certain spectrum of details involving the negative light the media cast the Elkhart Four in as well as leaving the homeowner’s own culpability completely off the table, 1275 Days nonetheless remains a valiant and noble effort. 

No it doesn’t reach the artistic heights scaled by Errol Morris’ timeless classic which had the effect of clearing a wrongfully convicted man’s name, but yes 1275 Days does proved to be an affecting little documentary which will make you too rally behind proving the innocence of Blake and the Elkhart Four.  If nothing else it sheds light on a particular area of the judicial system that’s worth some revising.

--Andrew Kotwicki