Conviction Directed by: Tony Goldwyn Cast: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins Rating: R Release Date: October 15, 2010
PLOT: After her brother (Rockwell) is convicted of a murder he may not have committed, a mother of two named Betty Ann Waters (Swank) aims to become a lawyer so that she may help exonerate him.
WHO'S IT FOR? You do not need to have the selflessness of Betty Ann Waters to really connect with the movie. It’s also possible that even those who are without brothers or sisters could feel something from this about movie sibling love. If true stories about amazing people warm your heart, this is it.
EXPECTATIONS: I had not seen a trailer, but I went into the film with medium expectations. The cast list had me curious, but I was very crudely afraid that it possibly was going to be like a Lifetime movie. (Don't worry, I was wrong!)
Hilary Swank as Betty Ann Waters: This woman has a lot of weight, but a lot of love. Sure, this character might be slightly similar to previous Swank roles, but the actress has an undeniable strength, especially when playing a gritty hero like Betty Ann. Besides, Swank blends into this character so well that it’s never like we’re cheering for a movie character, it’s more like we're hoping that this true story has a happy ending. Score: 7
Sam Rockwell as Kenny Waters: Rockwell has always been an actor with great range, and here’s a role that will likely give him the attention he deserves. In some instances, he gives his character a great likable nature, even if he’s a bit rough around the edges (such as when he's in the bar in the beginning). As the story goes on with Kenny behind bars, he maintains a sweet optimism, but constantly fights that with large negative thoughts. We can see what’s going on in his life just by looking at his facial expressions. Score: 8
Minnie Driver as Abra Ross: Though Abra is crucial help to Betty Ann's mission, she's comparatively insignificant to the rest of the story. She doesn't even stand as a sidekick. Instead, Abra is just an example that other older women are studying to be lawyers too. Score: 4
Juliette Lewis as Roseanna Perry: Some human beings can be pretty gross, both inside and out. This is how Roseanna is portrayed, even though she’s only on-screen for a few minutes in the film. Lewis plays her with an effective gnarly nature. Score: 7
TALKING: This story that features lawyers and uphill battles is without a corny speech, or a moment that feels too Hollywood. When adapting this story, screenwriter Pamela Gray easily could have manipulated the story towards over-dramatic, after-school-special conversations. Instead, they are striking by their authentic nature. One wonders whether she adapted from actual transcripts of conversations had during Betty Ann’s prison visits. Score: 7
SIGHTS: I don’t think we give make-up enough credit when we look at movies, but here is where praise is due. Conviction deals with working class characters, and the visuals do not lose its grasp of that, especially in how it handles the sullen faces of its leads. This is especially certain in the way that Juliette Lewis’ character grows (decays) throughout the story. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Nothing could be more fitting to lead the experience of Conviction than a calming melodic piano waltz, which is just what the movie uses. There are only a couple of instances where the music is guilty of being too obvious to the emotions of the scene – for example, when it cuts out to emphasize the seriousness of a particular moment. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: Difficult to choose. Any of the interactions between Rockwell and Swank have their own powerful rawness to them.
ENDING: "That's it?" It's not anticlimactic, but it's not phony either. Most reunions on film do not have the power that this concluding moment does. It looks great on the poster, but feels even better in the actual movie.
REWATCHABILITY: Not immediately, but it's possible I'll have to double check my opinion on this film come award season ... hint hint ...
Conviction is much more than just an inspiring true story. It is a thoughtful recollection of events that demonstrated the power of the human spirit, or sometimes the lack thereof. A solid cast and delicate writing take the film out of a strictly court room realm, and puts the story into a powerful reflective pool that you can't look away from. It's the kind of movie that you trust to be very true with its events, but you are never sure if it's going to break your heart or not until the very end.
Sometimes, there is no justice in the world. But at least the world has good people.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10