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Home Reviews LFF 2010 LFF: Conviction
LFF: Conviction Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 15 October 2010 18:06
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Cast: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver

Whenever someone in a movie lands on Go To Jail, you can always count on a relative to do something crazy like grab a gun and shoot a bunch of screws. But the most dramatic way to bust your brother out from behind bars? Devote most of your life to studying for a law degree, passing the bar, and then becoming his defence attorney. It's all completely true - Conviction's story is based on real life. Which naturally makes it feel even more false.

Betty Anne Waters (Swank) loves her brother Kenny (Rockwell). In and out of the local police station, he's a wrong 'un, always causing trouble or dancing in bars while taking his clothes off. When he gets locked up for first degree murder, Betty refuses to believe it. So strong is her conviction (ahem - that's the title) that she throws away her marriage, half ignores her children, and signs up for a law course.

Money doesn't seem to be much of a concern for Betty. She does have a job in a local pub. Not that we see her do much work. She spends most of her time either chasing an elusive box of evidence or emoting furiously for the camera. And Swank does it really well, nailing the Massachusetts accent and determined loyalty of the devoted sister. As her supportive friend Abra, Minnie Driver gives an equally sparky performance, and Peter Gallagher's eyebrows do what they do best.

But the film comes alive when Sam Rockwell's on screen. An unpredictable presence, who suddenly flairs up into anger, Rockwell's jailbird is a tragic (but not entirely innocent) figure. Forging a believable bond with his sister, Rockwell and Swank bring a sincere gravitas to their scenes in the visiting room.

Outside the prison walls, Tony Goldwyn's movie is a slightly lamer beast. Playing out to some plinky bits of piano, it's a softly shot movie with a slushy script; the emotional flashbacks send the movie slightly off-kilter. But it's hard to have a movie like this without some heart-on-sleeves stuff. The problem is failing to get an engaging balance. And even with such an incredible couple at its core, Goldwyn's movie is guilty of that.


Conviction is a confident yet cloying movie. Like real life itself, it's honest, but not perfect.


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  • betty anne waters
  • conviction
  • hilary swank
  • london film festival
  • minnie driver
  • sam rockwell
  • tony goldwyn