Tony Goldwyn’s Conviction belongs squarely in the “stranger than fiction” file. The story of Betty Anne Waters is one rife with drama and is certainly tailor-made for the Hollywood treatment. Having dropped out of high school, Waters went back and finished, then put herself through college and law school so that she could represent her incarcerated brother Kenny who she feels is innocent.
This sort of material can easily veer into bathos but Goldwyn is able to achieve a tone that, while not documentary-like, focuses on the genuine, human aspects of the tale rather than those steeped in melodrama. That he’s cast Hilary Swank as Waters helps immensely. There are few actresses who project “sincerity” and “strength” as well as she does and she captures the woman/mother/sister Waters is, eschewing any overtly showy moments. Sam Rockwell as Kenny is equally fine, mercurial and desperate, running out of hope long before his sister does. Unfortunately the villain of the piece — Melissa Leo as a cop with an agenda – is drawn too broadly. But there’s no denying that Conviction grabs you when and where it counts.
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