“Conviction” is the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), a woman whose entire life is consumed by her efforts to free her brother from prison. A bevy of character witnesses and a blood test send her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) away for the rest of his life, but Betty Anne refuses to let her brother rot in prison for a wrongful conviction. She must quickly transform from a little sister dependent on her older brother to an advocate trying to bring justice to his case.
Playing Betty Anne, a single mother of two who is juggling work, a divorce and law school is no stretch for veteran actress Swank. Regardless of the made-for-TV aftertaste this film leaves, there’s no denying Swank’s honest and relatable portrayal of Betty Anne. Audiences sob with her through each setback and rejoice with every advance she makes in the case. Betty Anne is the glue that holds the plot together and unlike the rest of the characters, she never once questions her brother’s innocence.
Throughout the film, viewers see how year after year, Betty Anne sacrifices her own life and happiness to finish law school and free her brother. Consumed by the case, Betty Anne loses her marriage but never loses hope. The film is rife with moments of tension and anticipation as to whether Kenny will actually be freed. If the story weren’t true, audiences might have a hard time accepting the many lucky breaks Betty Anne and her team catch – most of which felt like nothing short of miracles.
There are two things amazing about this story: the details of the sordid conviction and the devotion of a brother and sister that knows no bounds. The platonic chemistry between Betty Anne and Kenny is what gives the story its power. The movie follows the youngsters from their early years of stealing candy and breaking into neighbors’ houses to escaping their tragic home life to raising their own families and vowing not to make the same mistakes their parents did. From the beginning of the movie until the very end, viewers may not be sure of Kenny’s innocence, but they are sure of one thing: This brother and sister will do absolutely anything for each other.
Although Swank’s portrayal of Betty Anne is one that may garner her an Oscar nod, the real standout performance in this film is Rockwell as Kenny. Viewers see the once-charismatic and full-of-life Kenny turn into a man driven mad by years of false hope. Rockwell gives a layered and dynamic character from beginning to end and his dedication to the role makes the payoff that much sweeter. Verdict: See this movie, if for no other reason than to discover a deeper appreciation for family.