The Confirmation movie scene with Clive Owen & Jaeden Lieberher

The Confirmation

The Confirmation is a modest little father-and-son flick with an old-fashioned feel about it. Features engaging performances from the two leads.

Review: (rolanstein)
The Confirmation is the directing debut of screenwriter Bob Nelson, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of the excellent Nebraska (2014). While it falls short of the originality, humour and emotional power of Nebraska, this father-son tale is entertaining and warming and has a charming old-fashioned feel about it, its contemporary setting notwithstanding.

The backdrop is impoverished small-town mid-west America. Walt (Clive Owen) is one of the unnamed town’s many have-nots, an unemployed handyman/carpenter with an alcohol problem that has cost him his marriage and regular contact with his 8yo son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher). Walt’s wife (Maria Bello) entrusts him with looking after Anthony while she and her new husband (Matthew Modine) attend a weekend Catholic couples retreat.

There’s an awkwardness between Walt and Anthony to begin with, and the weekend doesn’t get off to a good start. Walt is evicted from his home, and has his prized specialist carpentry tools stolen while he is in the pub putting out feelers for some work. He hits the drink then swears off it and goes through a sanitised version of the DTs (which pass ludicrously fast, leaving him ludicrously fully recovered).

The bulk of the movie comprises Walt and Anthony trying to hunt down the tools. This takes them through the down-and-out quarters of the town (and that’s most of it, it seems), and leads to encounters with family battlers doing it tough, petty thieves, hustlers, a well-intentioned but delusional meth–head and a couple of dodgy pawnbrokers.

Of course, Walt and Anthony have bonded fast as superglue by the end of the film.

So where does the title come in? At the behest of his mother, Anthony is in the process of becoming a confirmed Catholic, but it seems that his most profound learning has taken place over the weekend with his father, a non-believer. Towards the end of the movie, he broaches the subject of his confirmation with Walt. The discussion that ensues is beautifully managed – a highlight.

The criticism might be made that loose ends are a little too neatly tied up, and the father-son stuff gets a bit sentimental. However, Clive Owen and Master Lieberher have a great rapport and put in winning performances that more than save the day.

All up, a modest little film that never reaches great heights, but is engaging and feel-good without being saccharine.

Movie website:

The Confirmation features: Clive Owen, Jaeden Lieberher, Maria Bello, Matthew Modine
Writer/Director: Bob Nelson

Australian release date: 22 Sep 2016 (@ Event Cinemas and Luna Leederville & Luna On SX in Perth/Fremantle)

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4 thoughts on “The Confirmation”

  1. Nah. Cheese factor: triple cream Brie.

    The kid was too too wise; the dad was a misogynistic, lying carpentry snob; the ex-wife was a saint. Spare me.

    Seriously, it was a portrait of a flawed person who in one narratively neat weekend gets his shit together. Fair enough, but it just didn’t get there for me. The father and son forge a relationship, but Walt is an unappealing character. His faults are laid out, and to a certain extent he addresses them, but there’s a tone of blokey snideness about his attitude to his ex-wife’s new spouse that is not only ugly, but apparently shared by the filmmakers. This poor guy – the new husband – is sober, employed, making a fair fist of being a step parent, and working on maintaining a good marital relationship. But he is slagged off by Walt for his dismal carpentry skills and his poor taste in furniture! So, this is probably true to character for Walt as a bitter ex, but the new guy is presented as being desperate for friendship with a real man. It’s ridiculous and offensive: somehow Walt comes off as the better man.

    And a word about the filmmaking. It needed a tighter edit. We don’t need to see people crossing roads in real time.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Rolanstein, and I reckon lots of people will. Just not me.

  2. Ta for your comments, Karen.

    I don’t know why you thought the film was as cheesy as all that! Could u be overstating the case just a little? And ex-wife a saint? Not sure how you get to that. We didn’t learn much about her.

    Agree that it was all too neat, but comes with the territory and didn’t bother me (except for Walt’s episode of DTs lite!).

    Maybe one’s response to the film is largely dependent on one’s response to Walt. I liked him. He rang true to me, as did his perception of his ex-wife’s new hubby. In fact, I shared that perception. I thought the new hubby was a bit of a twit and a bullshitter. Walt did not suffer people like him easily, and neither do I. You saw good stuff in the hubby and nothing but negs in poor old Walt. So, therein, I venture, lies a big difference twixt you and I, and our assessment of the film.

    On a positive note, did you at least share my view that the father-son discussion on religious faith at the end was delicately handled? Wise stuff from Walt, I thought. Captain Fantastic could have done with some mentoring from him, come to think about it.


  3. Okay, ex-wife irrelevant. That makes it so much better!

    Yeah, his advice to the kid about the confirmation was okay I guess. It was a graceful moment.

    Gee, a twit and a bullshitter?? That’s harsh, Rolanstein, when even the wise-child had given his seal of approval to the step-dad. Of course you will think Walt is great if you think this way about poor Kyle!

    Thought exercise: switch the genders and ask yourself how sympathetic you would be to a female character who slagged off another female character who did not have traditional female accomplishments.

    1. Hmm, your comments re my appraisal of Kyle seem a bit personal and judgemental to be honest, Karen. I’m not going to buy into that.

      Re “thought exercise”: Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the genders – that would make zero difference to my perception. All that matters to me is whether the characters and their responses to each other make sense in terms of their circumstances and personalities. If so, fine. If not, there’s where I have an issue.

      As to whether I’d be more or less sympathetic to this or that character if they were female, impossible to say. I don’t see the point of the exercise. All too hypothetical for me, sorry.


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