Based on fact, this is the true story of one Betty Anne Waters who decides to get her GED, then complete college and law school in an effort to exonerate her brother who has been condemned to life in prison. Kenny Waters was convicted and sentenced in 1983 for the 1980 murder of Katharina Brow in Ayer, Massachusetts.

In many ways this your standard potential miscarriage of justice drama. A docudrama, slickly mounted, well acted and produced. Initially, what lifts the study above “fighting the system” background is the ambiguousness of it all. Whether her brother committed the crime, is a question up for debate through most of the picture and wisely not answered until the very end. Kenny is good to Betty Anne, but he isn’t particularly likeable. The evidence, though circumstantial, relies on three witness that greatly tip the scales toward his guilt. Actresses Melissa Leo, Clea DuVall and Juliette Lewis are the testimony that form the foundation against her brother. They’re all excellent, but Lewis gives a particularly kooky scene stealing performance. Uncovering the hows and whys of the case are a big part of what keeps the action interesting.

But what ultimately raises Conviction beyond your conventional “triumph over adversity” account, is the acting. Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell are Betty Anne and Kenny, respectively. As siblings they convey a deep bond as family who have grown up together and remained close into adulthood. We see them as kids and then as adults, willingly supporting each other at various points throughout. Their portrayals are genuine and engaging. Betty Anne’s devotion to her brother is the emotional connection that causes the viewer to be invested in this material.

Director Tony Goldwyn will always be best remembered as playing the villain, Carl Bruner, in Ghost. But he has also directed a significant number of TV shows including The L Word, Grey’s Anatomy and Dexter. He’s a workmanlike director and his comfortableness with TV often pushes the proceedings here into Lifetime movie territory . At times the plot can appear a bit simplistic in the way it unfolds. Great performances are what elevates the melodramatic script to something much more powerful. Impressive depictions from a talented cast make Conviction a film to believe in.

3 Responses to “Conviction”

  1. The acting in here is incredible! Hilary Swank never disappoints, of course. Minnie Driver was certainly good. Juliette Lewis: you said it best, a complete scene-stealer. But the best acting for me was Sam Rockwell. I thought he was amazing and he should’ve been up for an Oscar.


    • I’ve always thought Sam Rockwell was one of the great actors of his generation. The Green Mile, Galaxy Quest, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Matchstick Men, Frost/Nixon, Moon, Conviction – he’s done some great films and he’s always memorable. Hopefully one day, the Academy will recognize him.

      Oh and he’s an incredible dancer too


  2. Great movie. I agree about the acting. Everyone was believable. I knew the story, but liked the way it was portrayed.


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