Bob Nelson’s first splash in the world of cinema was a big one. Director Alexander Payne was asked to find a director for Nelson’s original screenplay “Nebraska”. Payne was so impressed with the script he petitioned to direct the film himself. “Nebraska” would go on to receive six Academy Award nominations including one for Nelson. Not a bad feature film debut.
“The Confirmation” is Nelson’s second feature length screenplay and his directorial debut. Much like with “Nebraska”, Nelson grounds “The Confirmation” in no-nonsense, real world drama and just the right amount of dark humor. In many ways this story feels familiar, but there is an unglossed earnestness to every dramatic detail and a genuine, raw emotional undercurrent that makes it strikingly unique.
Clive Owens (one of the most underrated actors working today) plays a down-on-his-luck carpenter named Walt. Since his divorce Walt has struggled to make ends meet as an independent construction contractor. He can’t find a job and his wife Bonnie (Maria Bello) has threatened to revoke his visitation rights to their son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) if he doesn’t get his drinking under control.
Bonnie asks Walt if he can keep Anthony for a night while she and her husband Kyle (Matthew Modine) go on a church couples retreat. Walt agrees and the story follows their eventful 24 hours together. It revolves around a box of tools stolen from Walt’s truck. The two set out around town to find them encountering a motley assortment of people along the way. Most importantly it offers Walt and Anthony a much needed opportunity to reconnect.
While Walt is a major player it could be said this is a story about Anthony and his head-on collision with real life. Nelson shows us so much of the film through Anthony’s eyes. The movie starts with him at confession unable to list a single sin. He truly is a good boy but while navigating an array of moral gray areas with his father Anthony breaks nearly every commandment. This opens him up to the realities of the world and also of himself.
This is Lieberher’s second father/son movie of 2016. He was alongside Michael Shannon in the superb “Midnight Special”. Both roles require a very specific demeanor which Lieberher has no trouble with. He also maintains a wonderful rapport with Clive Owen. There is a striking similarity between the two performances. Both are authentic and unobtrusive, never relying on artifice or show.
Perhaps my greatest compliment for Nelson is this – every second we spend in his film feels like we are in the real world. Nothing feels fabricated. Nothing feels manipulative. It’s impressive because so many filmmakers could take this same concept and fill it to the brim with sappy melodrama and overblown sentimentality. Nelson is smarter than that and his movie reflects it.
Thanks for reviewing this one, bro. It’s timely. I just got a hold of this strictly because it was Nelson’s directorial debut. I loved Nebraska and thought I’d give this a go but I hadn’t heard a lot of buzz surrounding it. It sounds great and something that I could really enjoy.
I’m totally with you on how underrated Clive Owen is and after seeing Midnight Special fairly recently, I’m open to more from the young fellow.
The two have such a strong chemistry otherwise the film would definitely suffer. This one seems to have flew under EVERYONE’S radar. I haven’t heard anyone talking about it at all. I can see some dismissing it as yet another troubled relationship drama but I really think that does a disservice to what Nelson and company give us.
Good to hear, man. I just stumbled across it myself and you’re the only one that I’ve came across that’s covered it. I’m really looking forward to it now.
Perfect! Let me know what you think.
Great review! I’ll have to check this one out. I like the cast, and I enjoyed Nebraska as well.
Clive Owen is really good here. I would say he is always good. Don’t you feel he is an often undervalued actor by many?
It’s been a while since I’ve watched a movie that starred Clive Owen. Yeah, he’s underrated. I watched the first season of The Knick earlier this year and really liked him in it. I think I caught the trailer for The Confirmation before watching Suicide Squad. It didn’t quite catch my attention but after reading this it may be worth a look on home video. Good post.
Thanks a lot. I hope you will give it a shot. I haven’t heard many people talking about this one but it definitely deserves an audience.
Hey Keith! I kept seeing this flash on Netflix but not sure if it’s any good. I’ve added this to my queue now 🙂
I really, really like this one Ruth. You and I have discussed Clive Owen before and I think you would really appreciate his performance. Very strong.
Yes he’s a terrific and kind of underrated actor. You’ve seen ‘The Boys Are Back’ right? That’s also a small understated drama he did a while back. He’s terrific in that too.
I have seen that. I don’t think enough people checked it out. Kinda like this one. No one talked about it. I basically stumbled upon it.