Betty Anne Waters (Swank) is a high school dropout who spent nearly two decades working as a single mother while putting herself through law school, tirelessly trying to beat the system and overturn her brother’s (Rockwell) unjust murder conviction.
Conviction stars two time Academy Award Winner Hilary Swank as Betty Ann Waters, a fiercely devoted woman whose life is changed when her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is convicted of a murder that occurs in their sleepy little town of Ayer, Massachusetts. Although the murder occured three years earlier, Kenny is still the prime suspect and he is eventually arrested and charged with the killing when new evidence is found.
By being both Producer and Star, Hilary Swank has massaged this project for many years. At times it looked like the film wasn’t going to happen. Thankfully she has seen it through to completion and we have a powerful and emotional film that asks us, how far would you go for your family?
Told in a non linear style, the film unfolds with a series of flashbacks and flash forwards that never feels forced or takes you out of the story. Based on the true story of Betty Ann Waters, we are taken through her life in a small town, from an impoverished childhood, to being a single parent raising her kids and trying to keep it all together, while studying to become a lawyer.
It is because of her and her brothers’ love for each other that the story finds an emotional core that is very much needed in this sometimes bleak film. Putting all of her relationships on the line, she has a blind faith in her brother and it is this faith keeps her fires burning.
The way the film goes back and forth in time presents a useful tool for director Tony Goldwyn. By revisiting some of the same locations in two time periods, we get a real sense of connection to the story, an almost tangible bond with the location and the characters.
It’s an interesting and powerful direction to go as it heightens the emotional beats of the story. It’s these little moments that make the film resonate with the viewer.
Released last year in the U.S. it is suprising to note that the film hasn’t recieved any Oscar attention. The performances by Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell are fantastic. Their chemistry as brother and sister is right on the money. Melissa Leo (Oscar Nominated for her role in The Fighter) gives another great performance as the Police Woman who takes down Rockwells’ Kenny.
The film captures the look and fashions of the era very well. Great attention to detail to the music and hairstyles gives you a sense of nostalgia and the cringe factor is kept low for those of us who can really remember the 1980’s well.
Conviction is a film that takes you by surprise and really challenges your point of view on family, justice and capital punishment. It’s a great film filled with stellar performances and weaves it’s tale in an interesting and complex way.
I give this film 4 out of 5.
Conviction opens in cinemas in Australia this Thursday 24th February