A Sibling’s Conviction
By Todd A. Smith
Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) has done it again. The new Conviction movie is set in the town Ayers, Mass. and shows the unconditional love of a brother Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) and his sister Betty Anne Waters (Swank).
When Betty Anne believes Kenny is wrongly accused of a brutal murder she dedicates her life to proving his innocence, even at the expense of losing her own family and livelihood.
The unique bond that the Waters children share in the Conviction movie is developed because of the dysfunction that they witnessed in their own household growing up. Their mother has multiple children by multiple men and they end up being shuffled from foster home to foster home. The only constant in their lives is each other and they vow to do anything to keep that bond alive.
Nevertheless, it does not help that Kenny develops a reputation in Ayers for being a petty criminal and when they are looking for a suspect it is not hard to suspect the local criminal had something to do with this latest crime.
While many, including Betty Anne’s husband, believe that Kenny is guilty and there is nothing that can be done to help him, she decides to earn a GED, go to college and then law school to learn the system in a way to free him from incarceration. The entire process takes 18 years before any progress is made.
The Conviction movie does an excellent job highlighting the role DNA evidence has played in freeing many prisoners who were innocent of their crimes. The film highlights the Innocence Project, which is doing exceptional work overturning poor decisions from courts throughout the nation.
As one can expect with any Swank film, the Conviction movie features exceptional acting from Minnie Driver (Abra Rice) to Peter Gallagher of “The O.C.” (Barry Scheck). And although it is very serious movie, the Conviction movie does an excellent job of keeping the mood light with sarcastic humor.
Kenny even jokingly calls the prison he is confined in as the Hilton Hotel and bragged about its exceptional cuisine.
Despite the appeal of this film, the Conviction movie has its unforeseen obstacles; it is not an excellent film because of the predictable outcome. Unfortunately, moviegoers have seen many feel-good stories like the Conviction movie countless times before and it is too obvious who the villain and the victim are.
Nevertheless, it is extremely good and poignant because it tells a story that is not often told in film, but a message that definitely needs highlighting. Many wrongly-accused citizens sit in prisons throughout the country because they could not afford a lawyer who cared about their predicament or faulty evidence wrongly led to their incarceration.
However, because of many dedicated individuals and organizations, those unjustly imprisoned like Waters have seen miracles take place first hand. Because of the work of his sister, Waters was able to beat the system but there are countless others who have similar fates, just because fate dealt them in an unlucky hand. And the Conviction movie does a good job of exposing that truth to the masses.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.