Cast includes: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Peter Gallagher (American Beauty), Juliette Lewis (My Name is Earl)
Director: Tony Goldwyn (The Last Samurai (2003))
Genre: Drama based on true story (2010)
In brief: Brother and sister Betty Anne and Kenny Waters always looked out for each other. They were known to the police in Ayer, MA, from an early age… trespassing, occasional skirmishes… the kind of mischief you’d expect from kids who have grown up in 8 different foster homes. So in 1980 when Katharina Brow is found brutally murdered, the police naturally want to talk to Kenny. Officer Nancy Taylor is convinced that Kenny is the killer, even though the scratches on his face could easily be explained. “The lawyer wants 25 grand up front,” Betty Anne tells Kenny. “Don’t worry. They’ve got nothing,” Kenny tells her.
Well, that’s not the way things looked to the jury. With flimsy evidence that a good lawyer could have easily debunked, Kenny gets sentenced to life without parole. Betty Anne is devastated. Her husband tells her, “You gotta make peace with this and accept it.” “I will never accept it,” she declares. And she doesn’t. With absolutely no other options, Betty Anne decides to go to law school and become a lawyer so she can get Kenny’s conviction overturned. But it’s not so simple… there’s the GED and college degree to get before she can even start law school… while working a fulltime job. It’s a long road. While Betty Anne is on the journey, new technology… DNA testing… becomes a viable way to prove innocence. But getting Kenny out is still not going to be easy. It was a high-profile murder, and no one wants to admit they’ve made a mistake.
If this weren’t based on a true story, you’d say it’s too farfetched to be believed. But it’s an inspirational true story well worth telling. With excellent performances by the leads, Hilary and Sam, as well as an amazing cameo by Juliette Lewis, we really feel the hardships and frustrations… “just setbacks”… of the 18-year struggle to get justice. What this film lacks is suspense. You’re likely to know how it ends before you see it. Even so, the journey is worth watching.
3 popped kernels
An inspirational true-life story, well told
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Mood: Both upbeat and somber
Tempo: Cruses comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative