Director: Tony Goldwyn
Stars: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo
Plot: A man is wrongfully convicted of murder and it is left to his sister to prove his innocence.
Miscarriages of justice are a fertile area for cinematic interpretations. As they are unfortunately all too common in real life, there is a wealth of material upon which to base or even depict from start to finish on the screen. From the fictitious comedy of My Cousin Vinny to the brutally real In The Name of the Father, it must take some seriously good acting or a cracking script to lift it above the norm.
Conviction is based on the true story of Kenneth Waters (Rockwell) who, in 1983, is tried and convicted of the murder of Katharina Brown in Ayer, Massachusetts three years previously. His sister Betty Anne (Swank), with whom Kenny has had a very close relationship, becomes anxious when he attempts to commit suicide in prison. As she is worried about Kenny’s state of mind and wonders if he’ll last much longer, Betty decides to study her way through law school in an attempt to become a lawyer and work towards getting her brother acquitted of a crime she doesn’t believe he committed. As her marriage breaks down and a series of setbacks threaten to put paid to any aspirations of Kenneth’s release begin to fade, Betty suddenly learns about the advances in DNA testing that could prove decisive.
Hilary Swank’s pedigree as a captivating actress rises even further. Despite the story and plot being rather ordinary, Swank manages to make her character very believable and is well-supported by Sam Rockwell who does a fine job in depicting Kenneth in such an ambiguous way that you’re left guessing whether his character is actually guilty or not. Tony Goldwyn’s direction is sympathetic to the subject, with the use of flashbacks being very effective in telling the story and engaging the film’s audience with Betty’s plight.
Conviction isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but the facts of the story are brought to life in such a way that this is very watchable.