Hilary Swank gives another tremendous performance--steely, determined, vulnerable--in the courtroom/family drama Conviction. The film is based on a real case, of Betty Anne Waters (Swank), who as a last resort puts herself through law school to take on the case of her brother, Kenny (Sam Rockwell, also outstanding). Kenny is convicted of murder, despite a weak prosecution case, but Betty Anne can't get any lawyer to explore a retrial or appeal. Director Tony Goldwyn (Dexter, Damages
) keeps the action moving along crisply and believably, even during the almost interminable stretches of Kenny's imprisonment. The terrific script by Pamela Gray (Music of the Heart
) weaves in occasional shadows of doubt about whether Kenny is actually innocent, so that a story that could be formulaic is anything but. The viewer isn't sure most of the way through Conviction
if Kenny is guilty or not--but is completely swept up in Swank's incredible performance depicting Betty Anne's own conviction--that "you do anything for your family. Period." As she did in Boys Don't Cry
, Swank puts her own gritty spin on a real-life character, whom she inhabits like a second skin. Her Betty Anne is a blue-collar pit bull, and her sheer determination is itself a force of nature. The supporting cast of Conviction
also shines, including Minnie Driver as Betty Anne's law school pal, and an especially effective Juliette Lewis playing Kenny's broken-down ex-girlfriend, who's buried some secrets of her own. Also a standout is Melissa Leo as the policewoman whose initial arrest of Kenny might have been loaded with her own agenda. The chemistry, especially between Rockwell, a man very nearly defeated after years behind bars, and Swank, is palpable and will capture the viewer in intense dramatic territory that won't be soon forgotten. --A.T. Hurley Never Let Me Go
In adapting Kazuo Ishiguro's celebrated novel, director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo
) and screenwriter Alex Garland (Sunshine
) transform dystopian fiction into period drama by presenting an alternate past in which people routinely live beyond 100--at a cost to those who make it possible. In the 1970s, Kathy (Isobel Meikle-Small) and Ruth (Ella Purnell) attend Hailsham, a British boarding school where Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling) holds sway--and no one ever mentions their parents. When new teacher Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
) arrives, she reaches out to the awkward Tommy (Charlie Rowe), with whom Kathy becomes close--until jealous Ruth steals him away. Then Lucy reveals what will happen when they leave. By the 1980s, Kathy (a poignant Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) live in the country until they're ready to fulfill their purpose. With Ruth and Tommy an item, Kathy becomes a carer, a sort of social worker. Over the years, the three go their separate ways until the 1990s, by which point their time will run out unless they can arrange for a deferral. Throughout, Romanek never presents alternate points of view; the audience experiences this brave new world only through the eyes of its sheltered protagonists. If the story raises issues that recall Orwell, the unhurried pace echoes The Remains of the Day
, Merchant Ivory's Ishiguro adaptation. Similarly, Never Let Me Go
is a work of great skill and compassion, but make no mistake: it's also very, very depressing. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) a high school dropout who spent nearly two decades working as a single mother while putting herself through law school, tirelessly trying to beat the system and overturn her brother's (Sam Rockwell) unjust murder conviction. At its heart, Conviction
is an exploration of the profound bond between a brother and sister--a love so deep, so unequivocal, so complete that it becomes a force that will not be denied or defeated.
Offers French language dubbing and subtitles.Never Let Me Go
As children, Ruth (Knightley), Kathy (Mulligan) and Tommy (Garfield), spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them. Based on the best-selling book by Kazuo Ishiguro.