Carol & Johnny @ Nashville Film Festival

American history and lore are filled with tales about infamous bank robbers. Many have been turned into films. Films featured around the “careers” of Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Jessie James. We all love to see what makes them tick or do what they do. Here we get an unprecedented look at the lives of bank robbers who pulled off the longest string of consecutive unsolved bank robberies in FBI history – Carol and Johnny Williams.

The documentary, directed and written by Colin Barnicle (The Hobby: Collecting America’s Pastime), tells of the interwoven lives of Carol Marie Williams and Johnny Madison Williams Jr. The two made up one of America’s most infamous bank robbery duos in history. They are also husband and wife. Even after they were caught, they remained married. After jail and then subsequent release from it. So it is not just a doc about bank robbers but also of a decades long romance.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Carol and Johnny pulled off a ton of bank robberies. Bank robberies that went unsolved. Johnny did the robberies while Carol drove the getaway car. The robberies were throughout Texas, in Seattle, San Diego, and all over the American Southwest. All told the two pulled off 56 bank robberies before they were caught by the FBI in 1994. Johnny was sentenced to life in prison while Carol got 20 years. Both have now been released.

This is a tale they tell in their own words. Barnicle imbues old images around interviews with the two. It turns into a record of their love. A love that has endured despite not being together. Carol, after her release, relocated to Dallas to take care of a dying aunt. After his compassionate release, Johnny was in a halfway house in Seattle. They both talk of their love affair. Sometimes they are together in their memories. Sometimes they diverge. The love is still full on for Johnny while Carol has some doubts. Things have changed for her. Yet they stay married.

We get a taste of how incarcerated people, once they are released have to adjust to the world. Or readjust. To them, the world seems to have gone on without them. Changed a lot. They have to figure out how to make a legitimate living. Deal with how others and their families see them.

The way their story has been chosen to be told changes the focal point. The true crime aspect is just there for colour. Yes, they were bank robbers but it is love that is center stage. How even the strongest of loves can change/evolve over decades. Johnny dreams of making a living and going to Carol and whisking her off to Arizona to live. Carol, on the other hand, is not sure she wants to reconnect with her husband. They remain separated (by location and outlook) while still linked.