A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fact-based drama celebrates one woman's tenacity and loyalty to her brother. It's uplifting and fairly moving, but given the heavy subject matter -- crime, prison, and difficult odds -- it's too intense for younger viewers. Some scenes depict characters examining graphic crime scene photos of a
murdered woman, and the film begins with cameras moving through a house in which someone has been killed in a violent crime. There's also frequent swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k") and references to suicide.
What's the story?
When her older brother, Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), is arrested and convicted for a crime he insists he didn't commit, Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) fights to exonerate him, no matter how much time or effort it takes. And it turns out to take 18 years, most of which she spends getting first her high school diploma, then going to college, then attending law school and passing the bar so she can serve as Kenneth's counsel and make sure he clears his name. But Betty Anne's dedication has a cost: Her husband's not sure how much longer he can hang on, and her kids get less and less of her time. Yet she perseveres, determined to get her brother out of jail. Is he innocent? Will she succeed? This drama based on the life of the real Betty Anne Waters charts Betty Anne and Kenneth's journey through the criminal justice system.
Is it any good?
If CONVICTION were a present wrapped up in shiny paper and tied with a big red bow, it would have "Happy Oscar nomination!" stamped on it specifically for Swank. The film seems engineered for maximum make-the-audience-feel effect, with a compelling storyline and a heartwarming message about family loyalty and tenacity. Swank cries, persists, moves, overcomes, and survives: the perfect awards concoction. The movie is inspirational with a capital "I."
Despite that transparency and that fact that it follows the typical conventions of the courtroom-drama-with-uplifting-ending genre, Conviction is, cynicism aside, quite moving. How can you not sympathize with a woman who isn't merely a figment of some screenwriter's imagination but an actual human being who displays such fortitude and faith? How can you not admire a sibling relationship that encourages such dedication? Rockwell gives his performance ample bite without undercutting the film's tender message; whenever he's onscreen, he compels. And though there's something a little mechanical in Swank's Best-Actress-y repertoire, she makes us forget that she's a Hollywood actress playing make-believe. Art imitates life, and what a powerful movie it made.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Betty Anne's unwavering faith in her brother. Why does she believe in him so steadfastly? Do you think she ever had doubts? If so, why might the filmmakers decide not to dwell on that?
How does the film depict Betty Anne's journey? Has it been sugar coated, or does it seem realistic?
What is the film saying about the criminal justice system? How does it compare to most movies depicting a crime and its consequences?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.