CONVICTION (Tony Goldwyn, 2010)
Hilary Swank has gravitated to roles in which her character has a singular purpose and is vigilant in staying on course. In the fact-based CONVICTION she’s found another determined woman to add to her roster. Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a high school dropout who makes it through a rough upbringing with her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell).
Kenny has his share of encounters with the Ayers, Massachusetts police, but things get serious in 1980 when he’s brought in for questioning about a local murder. Three years later he is convicted of the crime despite his protestations of innocence. Betty Anne believes her brother and vows to get all of the necessary education to prove that he didn’t do it, no matter how long it takes.
CONVICTION’S title refers more to the dedication of Betty Anne Waters than the judgment rendered against Kenny. The film isn’t anything fancy and doesn’t contain much in the way of surprises, but it wields an enormous amount of power in depicting the bottomless love and devotion that a sister has for her brother. After Kenny was convicted Betty Anne earned her GED, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and law degrees and located the key evidence presumed to have been destroyed years earlier. All in all, it took around twenty years for her persistence to pay off.
Swank plays the role with a quiet intensity that beautifully conveys the selflessness and personal cost that such an endeavor must require. Director Tony Goldwyn and screenwriter Pamela Gray don’t shy from showing the toll Betty Anne’s decisions have on her life, but like Swank, they don’t oversell the sacrifices or thickly apply sentimentality.
This unassuming film features a moving story that’s well-told and well-performed. Instead of concerning itself with slick legal maneuvers and courtroom grandstanding, CONVICTION is unashamedly straightforward in showing how a lot of hard work and sheer willpower was able to correct an injustice.