Extremely contrived, but feel good entertainment, The Confirmation is a story about a divorced man, an alcoholic carpenter, who is struggling to get by and his intelligent and perceptive young son.
Clive Owen plays the down-on-his luck Walt, whose God-fearing ex-wife Maria Bello has remarried. She and her new husband Matthew Modine head off to a religious retreat, which enables eight-year-old Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) to spend a short time with his dad for the first time in ages. Already awkward for both father and son, the weekend becomes a series of unfortunate events, as Walt desperately needs to retrieve a stolen toolbox for a job he has just landed. Among other things, he and Anthony need to deal with his truck breaking down and his landlord locking Walt out of his house because he has been unable to pay the rent. In pursuit of those precious tools, the pair encounters a series of eclectic characters, reconnecting and bonding in the process.
Owen acknowledges he is attracted to characters in conflict. He says this film falls into that bracket. “He’s a father, estranged from his son, who’s trying to make a go of it and trying to do the right thing, and it’s very difficult in his circumstances and he’s got some demons he’s dealing with.” Lieberher acknowledges Anthony is a good kid who doesn’t usually get into trouble until he is with his dad. “He’s very curious about the world and curious about what his father’s dealing with”.
Written by Robert “Bob” Nelson (Nebraska), who also makes his directorial debut with The Confirmation, as pleasing as father, son, ex-wife and new husband are as characters, I’m afraid they don’t ring true for me. All seem far too respectful given the situation they are faced with. Everyone is polite to the extreme, which doesn’t dovetail with the tensions they confront and the real dangers, which, to my mind, are dismissed too lightly. Relatively well mannered, too, is the oddball collection of characters they encounter along the way, including thieves.
Slow moving, especially at first, The Confirmation is not without its charm, but I felt like it was deliberately manipulative. The best movies of this type are those when you can get lost in the characters and their circumstances without even considering that strings are being pulled.
Owen and Lieberher play their parts with a deliberate lack of expression, to indicate the distance between them. Underneath it, of course they care and that becomes obvious the longer the film progresses. Incidentally, the church confessional comes out of this rather badly, as an institution that calls people out on sin and wants its pound of flesh. Rated PG, The Confirmation has heart and warmth, but lacks credibility and scores a 6 out of 10.
Director: Bob Nelson
Cast: Clive Owen, Jaeden Lieberher, Maria Bello
Release Date: 15 September 2016
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television