Thursday, November 04, 2010

"Conviction" (2010) - Movie Review

There is nothing more terrible than serving a prison term for a crime one did not commit. The agony is incomparable and the frustration has no limits. All these happens in a place where there is nothing but time to think about this, prison. Sam Rockwell plays Kenny Waters, a man sentenced to life without parole for a murder he did not commit, at least his sister Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) thinks so. The film features two wonderful performances, both of which involves extreme care to make or break this. They make it.

Tony Goldwyn directs this film in one of those “based on a true story”. In 1980 a young woman Katharina Brow is murdered and Kenny is held responsible. Kenny is a wild man. He and his sister stuck with each other when their mother ran around leaving them to several foster homes. The result is two kids with strong bond. They disappeared into uninvited homes and mesmerized on the time between them. As much as their relation matured and stayed intact beyond the prion bars, their childhood has what shaped them to do whatever is necessary to save one from the holds of misfortune. Betty is determined to do that. Kenny gets guilty verdict in 1983 and is losing hope when Betty promises to get him out. Even it requires her to clear off GED, do law school.

Every time Betty meets Kenny, major part of it is breaking bad news or receiving one from Kenny’s hopeless prison life. Kenny begins to descent his slow death in two years when Betty got to give him hope. As long as she is working outside, that gives Kenny a reason to move forward. Betty unquestionably believes the innocence of Kenny even when the audience begins to doubt and her best friend (Minnie Driver). Betty has two wonderful boys doing their best for support but only before they give up or cannot match up to their mom’s determination. At one point in the film, the brothers put themselves in their mom’s shoes and ask themselves whether they would do the same for each other. Betty realizes what she has given up and for a moment goes out of her body and sees herself. She is blown away by her with a humility and scare.

“Conviction” is not a gripping thriller rather becomes a collective film. We question the clarity of the film when it strains the relationship between Betty and her husband without much reason but then the film has so much other things to ponder. We are not explained the toll this war takes on Betty’s marriage but it is only a matter of time and we shoo off our judgements. Every time we wander off in emotion there is always Sam Rockwell coming to remind us of the onus responsibility his sister has and how he draws not a sympathy but a painful empathy. That is scary. We are shuddered by his ordeal. The strangest thing they do not show the grueling prison life Kenny goes through. It is all in Rockwell’s performance. To go through prison is hell and to go through it unreasonably and be helpless about it needs an invention of another hell altogether. In Sam Rockwell’s performance in each milestone both good and bad, we cannot help but cry within ourselves of this man’s hopelessness. To say that to Kenny is the tough job Hilary Swank’s Betty has to do in real life. This is one tough woman and a brother with unimaginable endurance. He slips early but after that there is no going back.

Hilary Swank now officially claims to only take roles which challenges not in the film but also in real life. While she is not being type casted, there appears to be no other way out for her to be pursuing her career. What would be for Swank to play a supporting role? Here while Sam Rockwell does stand shoulder to shoulder and little above, the film is about Betty’s pursuit with all she has got. Swank is a commendable performing artist and there is no question about it. Take her dangerously daring role in “Boy’s Don’t Cry” or the colossal failure of Amelia Earhart in “Amelia”, she carries the mantle and does her best. Here as the Massachusetts resident and strong accented Betty, she does the role justice.

Tony Goldwyn does not go for high risks and plays it cautiously in surprises and endings. There needs to be a happy ending to this hard story even to the point that the post credit does not mention the tragedy of Kenny after the release. When I learned that I did not feel betrayed or felt manipulated. It is sad to know that but the film needs to be said in the way it was told and the triumph is necessary. Sometimes tragedy is no more about mood or emotion for a film, it becomes a matter of justice and in “Conviction” you get it, even if it is after couple of decades.

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