The Confirmation is a modest little father-and-son flick with an old-fashioned feel about it. Features engaging performances from the two leads.
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: http://www.sabanfilms.com/films/the-confirmation/
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