Tony Goldwyn’s (The Last Samurai, The Pelican Brief) “Conviction” is a must see at TIFF. Based on the true story of Kenny Water’s (Sam Rockwell) murder trial, “Conviction” reveals how powerful the bond of family can be.
Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) is Kenny’s sister and long time best friend. An inseparable duo, Kenny and Betty grew up on a farm and have been there for each other for as long as they both can remember. Kenny is a wild card and has a history with crime. A brutal murder occurs in his small town and Kenny is the lead suspect. He is put to trial and sentenced to life without parole. Betty Anne refuses to believe he’s guilty and will stop at nothing to prove his innocence; even it means she has to become a lawyer to do it.
Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell are the life-blood of this film. Their performances are Oscar worthy and their chemistry is undeniable. Swank (Academy Award winner – ‘Boys Don’t Cry‘) plays a single mother whose purpose in life is to save her brother from dying in prison. Swank delivers an emotionally taxing and versatile performance as a believable sister to Rockwell. Betty Anne is a woman from humble beginnings who was always getting into trouble with her brother. Her evolution into a mother and obsessed lawyer is moving. The bond between Swank and Rockwell seems real and it amplifies the importance of every step she takes towards trying to save him. Rockwell is not outdone by Swank in any way. They co-exist on screen and only enhance each other’s performances.
If you know the outcome of this story before you see the film, chances are you may find it a little drawn out. I intentionally steered clear from this and became emotionally invested in Betty Anne’s journey from the beginning. It is my recommendation to anyone going to see the film to do the same. Don’t spoil it for yourself. It plays very well as murder mystery, especially because it is true.
Goldwyn is on top of his game with “Conviction”. He provides a glimpse into the backgrounds of his characters through flashbacks with quality child acting and interesting editing. He respects the audiences’ ability to follow non-linear timelines as he mixes past and present flawlessly; credit also goes to Jay Cassidy, editor of the film. The supporting cast is also memorable with Minnie Driver as Betty Anne’s best friend Abra and Melissa Leo as Nancy, the cop who helped put Kenny in prison.
The verdict is in, “Conviction” is stellar and will see Oscar nods for both Rockwell and Swank, but please judge for yourself.