“Conviction” is a movie about a brother and sister. Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) is always standing up for her wayward brother, Kenny (Sam Rockwell), who is always getting in scraps with the law. But when a murder happens not far from their grandfather’s house, Kenny becomes the prime suspect. And it’s not too much of a surprise when Kenny is convicted.
We see, in flashback, what led to the conviction. The two were bounced from foster home to foster home. Kenny was a petty thief, and Betty Anne his willing accomplice. They were separated during their childhood; Kenny went to reform school, and Betty Anne to a new foster home.
Kenny’s conviction sets Betty Anne in motion. She goes back to get her GED, then to college, then to law school – all in an effort to free her brother.
She knows he was a wild child but also knows he didn’t commit murder. Along the way she gains a friend, Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), a law school classmate who joins Betty Anne in the fight to free Kenny.
All the while, Betty Anne must fight a system that believes Kenny committed murder. Betty Anne gets knocked down time and again and must get up if her brother is to be saved.
“Conviction” works. It’s not spectacular, but it’s not meant to be. The movie works because we see and feel Betty Anne’s love for her brother. Swank embodies this working-class woman, who gives all she has for her brother, even though she doesn’t realize it until one Christmas morning.
As her two sons are talking, one says he would not give up his life for his brother. And it is here that Betty Anne understands: She is giving her adult life for her brother. She loses a husband and time with her children to save a brother that most thought was no good.
That’s the power of the story. When others were saying quit, that Kenny was not worth the effort, Betty Anne gives everything for him. This kind of sacrifice speaks to God’s sacrifice for us.
“Conviction” highlights people we may never see: people caught in circumstances, caught in systems, caught in reputations, convicted of crimes.
Who would give their life, their time, to save one such as this? “Conviction” shows us real agape love.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images.
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Writer: Pamela Gray
Cast: Hilary Swank: Betty Anne Waters; Sam Rockwell: Kenny Waters; Minnie Driver: Abra Rice; Peter Gallagher: Barry Schreck; Melissa Leo: Nancy Taylor.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.