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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Confirmation is a serious film that deals with the struggles of an out-of-work, alcoholic deadbeat dad (Clive Owen) who's desperately fighting to remain sober so he can stay in his 8-year-old son's life. The boy, who watches his father succumb to alcohol withdrawal while his mom is away for a weekend, takes charge of his father's care, even though he barely understands what's going on. A sense that the boy might not be safe in the dad's company quickly gives way to an ultimately hopeful story about the father's commitment to gradual redemption, one human step at a time; his journey includes themes of empathy, courage, and kindness. That said, although the dad eventually becomes more responsible, his lapses in judgment include trying to steal back some stolen property and calling his ex-wife's new husband a "puss." Other language includes infrequent use of words like "s--tty" and "ass," and there are scenes involving punching and a gun being pulled. Reference to a character using drugs.
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What's the story?
THE CONFIRMATION is a title with double meaning -- it refers both to an 8-year-old boy's upcoming religious rite of passage and to a new assurance that, despite his parents' divorce, he'll be able to have a relationship with his father. With his mom, Bonnie (Maria Bello), away, Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) must spend the weekend with his dad, Walt (Clive Owen), an out-of-work carpenter with an alcohol problem. Bonnie has threatened to deny visitation rights if Walt doesn't stop drinking, so, on their first night together, Anthony watches his father go cold turkey, observing but not understanding the accompanying shakes, sweats, and hallucinations. Though only a boy, Anthony believes that in some sense he has to be the grown-up, taking care of and protecting his father. Over the course of the weekend, Walt shows his son how to fix things and teaches him the value of good tools. When Walt's prized tools -- which were given to him by his father, underscoring the film's emphasis on the importance of the father-son relationship -- are stolen, Walt and Anthony collaborate to get them back, which cements their bond.
Is it any good?
Parts of this movie are grim, sad, and difficult to watch, but the filmmakers skillfully find humor and resolution as Walt and Anthony find their way toward each other. Nobody is perfect in The Confirmation, and that may be the point. The bright and somewhat literal-minded boy (a riveting performance by Lieberher) questions all assumptions, which makes for amusing and well-written dialogue. Sent to confession with an annoyed priest, he bridles when the priest calls him "son." "I'm not your son," the boy replies, stating a fact without a hint of snark. In another scene, Walt and Anthony watch a TV show in which a son asks his father, "What's a hussy?" and the father feebly attempts to reply without any sexual references, which just confuses the boy more. One of the movie's earnest themes is to illustrate the way adults try to explain the nearly inexplicable complexities of a grown-up world without destroying a child's innocence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the dad is portrayed in The Confirmation. Does the movie want you to view him as a villain, or is he sympathetic?
How is drinking portrayed? Are the consequences realistic? Do you think the movie could help people understand the difficulties faced by children whose parents have substance problems?
Can you think of other movies that deal with the father-son relationship? What do they have in common? How are they different?
- In theaters: March 18, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2016
- Cast: Clive Owen, Jaeden Lieberher, Maria Bello, Robert Forster
- Director: Bob Nelson
- Studio: Bungalow Media & Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some mature thematic elements
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