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Hilary Swank's portrayal of Betty Anne is likely to win her another Oscar nod

Ron Batzdorff/Fox Searchlight

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Every mistreated, abused, falsely accused, or wrongfully imprisoned person should be so blessed as to have a Betty Anne Waters on his side. Conviction, an Oscar-chasing movie about one sister's long but frantic struggle to rescue her brother from unjust imprisonment, is infused with a sense of righteous desperation that moves Betty Anne to action day after day for 18 years. Based on a true story, Conviction is rated R for bad language and a few graphic crime scene images.

Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) and Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) grew up desperately poor in Massachusetts, the children of a neglectful and unfit mother. Though they had other siblings who were farmed out to various foster homes, the only stability either one had in life was the other. Kenny, grown to a fun-loving, hard-drinking, hot-headed young father, is arrested and convicted of murder. Betty Anne, herself a young wife and mother, knows her brother did not commit the murder.

When the system abandons him, Betty Anne gets going. The high-school dropout earns her GED, goes on to earn an undergrad degree, and finally finishes law school. It's not without cost. Her marriage falls by the wayside and her sons learn to share her with her driving cause. Once she passes the bar, she has the power to force the system to revisit his case.

As a true story of great injustice, the movie becomes a plug for "The Innocence Project," a group that works on behalf of clients it suspects are wrongly incarcerated. However, the most emotionally powerful moments come as the siblings show their great love and trust for each other and in the day-to-day desperation Betty Anne feels as the world hums along while her brother wastes away in jail. She cannot understand her husband's lack of empathy or a desk clerk's lack of urgency. Nothing is academic to her, and Kenny is always foremost in her mind. Swank's portrayal of Betty Anne is likely to win her another Oscar nod.

Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a former WORLD correspondent.


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