Betty, a working mother, selflessly puts herself in law school in a bold effort to represent her brother who has been wrongfully convicted of murder, chasing justice for 18 years. This film, inspired by a true story, works in a formulaic way. However, the familiar territory didn't significantly taint the film because the performances elevate the film from being just a standard disposable drama.
Conviction revolves around the relationship of Betty and Kenny Waters. Their troubled childhood helped the two develop a close bond with each other; although, Kenny develops a reputation of notoriety because of his free-spirited temper, leading him to end up in a 6 by 8 metal cage. The film is done in a simple manner, letting the actors shine in the backdrop of a cold Massachusetts.
Tony Goldwyn's direction of the actors and the level of talent the actors display really make this film effective. Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, and Melissa Leo all come in with their A-game; however, Sam Rockwell as Kenny 'Muddy' Waters really shines. Kenny Waters is a lost soul with an erratic temper. Rockwell perfectly portrays those aspects, but also adds a layer of loyalty and jovial spirit to the character, showing us that no person can be defined by one characteristic. Rockwell naturally makes the audience want to see Kenny find hope, leading us to reinforce our connection with Betty in her journey to free her brother. Simply put, Rockwell deserves an award or two for this film, if not the gold.
The film shows us the importance of family, and the power of perseverance. Standard themes, I know, but sometimes we tend to overlook the essentials and need to be reminded that they exist.
The pieces fit snug, and it works well enough to be an easy emotional investment, but there's nothing completely refreshing about the film. This usually happens with all films based on a true story, to some extent; it's evident that this true story was pushed through the Hollywood cookie-cutter.
Although the acting is excellent, there are times that the film feels manipulative and unnatural. The story itself is inspiring, but if it were told in a different manner that didn't occasionally feel like Oscar-bait, it might have been a better film. The film falls in the section of mediocrity because the inspiring story was weighed down by a somewhat schmaltzy interpretation.