Directed By: Tony Goldwyn
Written By: Pamela Gray
Produced By: Tony Goldwyn, Andrew S. Karsch, Andrew Sugerman
Cast: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Peter Gallagher
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes
Release Date: October 15, 2010
Review Date: October 9, 2010
Eight in ten Americans have a sibling. What people would do for their siblings is often a grand list, from helping raise children to helping make ends meet. A sibling love is a bond that is deep, rich and tightly bound.
Conviction takes moviegoers into the deep bond of real life siblings Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) and Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell). Through flashback scenes throughout the film, you see how both Kenny and Betty Anne took turns looking out for each other, helping each other and more importantly, being there for one and other. It’s a relationship you’ll be envious of, regardless of your current sibling status.
When Kenny gets arrested for a 1983 murder in their neighborhood, neither he nor Betty Anne thinks much will come of it. After his trial, he’s convicted and sentenced to a life sentence without parole. Frustrated with the legal system, Betty Anne takes it upon herself to look after her big brother. Despite having a marriage, children, and household to care for, Betty Anne puts the next 12 years of her life on hold to go to school (starting with high school, as she dropped out) to obtain her law degree.
Along the way, she faces hard blows from Kenny’s pessimism, the doubts of other neighbors and eventually her husband when she loses her marriage. Despite this, Betty pushes herself to get what she set out for: a new trial. With the help of The Innocence Project and its creator, Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher), Betty Anne is able to get a retrial for Kenny once she receives her law degree.
Swank shines in the role of Betty Anne, bringing that charisma, dedication, and determination she brought to Million Dollar Baby as Maggie Fitzgerald. She truly is a gifted character actress as she adopts the real Betty Anne Waters’ gritty, New England accent on screen.
Other fine acting performances come from Betty Anne’s confidante and best friend Abra Rice (Minnie Driver). Abra helps keep Betty Anne on track throughout all of the hardships and becomes a major help in Kenny’s case once the trial begins. Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo) is the sheriff who arrested Kenny for the murders back in 1983. She comes back during the retrial and Leo is phenomenal in both decades playing the character.
A character I particularly enjoyed didn’t have much screen time, but did a fabulous job when she was on screen. Roseanna Perry (Juliette Lewis) resurfaces as a witness Betty Anne and Abra seek during the gathering of evidence for the retrial. She plays a key part in the trial all from her couch in her trailer. You become entranced by this character and cannot help but wonder what really is going on inside her head.
Conviction touches on various themes throughout the film, but none stronger than sibling love. It’s a touching, truthful tale that will ensure not a dry eye is in the house upon the lights coming up. I myself was deeply moved after hearing what happened to Kenny once the film ends, so be sure to search for the answers yourself.
Hanna Soltys is a green tea drinker and film critic living in Chicago.