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Review: The Confirmation

Ros Hull

Eight year old Anthony is somewhat uneasy about spending the weekend with his alcoholic, down-on-his-luck carpenter dad Walt while his mom Bonnie and her new husband Kyle go to a Catholic retreat together. IMDb

The subject of fathers and sons in cinema is usually mined for much more flamboyant drama than what is offered in this film. However more flamboyant does not mean better.

This is a humanist essay on what it means to be a man. Not to be a hero but to stand each day in worn shoes and stained clothes and to keep on trying. More than that, to keep some sort of moral compass within yourself – it may be skewed, it may be a code that no one else thinks is good enough – but it is what you cling to.

And, surprisingly after that comment, this film is also richly entertaining and enjoyable. From the media release I actually anticipated a much more dour film. However, I was pleasantly surprised – and even laughed out loud.

The story did not go where I expected and I think that may be some of the reason I enjoyed it. When Walt and Anthony are just starting their weekend together Walt’s woodworking tools (handed down from his father) are stolen from the back of his truck. This leads them into a weekend of following leads and meeting a series of men who may know something. Each of these, in his turn, is another man following his own code, struggling with his own life. Some of these brief glimpses are tragic and some are comic but they add up to a picture of what it means to be a man in a depressed, working class town in America. Not pretty – but with a strange, sad nobility.

The writer/director Bob Nelson is not someone whose work I didn’t know but I now admire his storytelling abilities. He wrote the film Nebraska that garnered a Best Actor nomination for Bruce Dern, so as a writer first his directing seems to rely on the performances of his cast rather than tricky photography or other gimmicks. Such a good idea in a story like this.

This is the best role Clive Owen has had since Children of Men and his characterization of Walt is sublime. It is more than his words, it is the volumes spoken by his sad eyes, the way he carries Walt’s slumping, beaten down body. Even the way he drives a car. Too quiet to be noticed by the awards train, this role is a lesson in how to act.

Jaeden Lieberher as Anthony is 1000 years old and not out of primary school yet. Both a little kid and the adult in charge with his dad he is easily as good as Macauley Culkin on his best day (in My Girl). This is not a child actor playing for pathos, this is natural talent.

Every other actor is very good – Maria Bello as Anthony’s mum is quickly observant but kind and even Matthew Modine (when did his hair get to be the same colour as mine??) as Anthony’s step dad develops a great character in just a few minutes of screen time.

This is a quiet, thoughtful but enjoyable film.

Roslyn saw this as a guest of Dendy Cinemas Canberra.

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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