Conviction (2010 film)

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Conviction 2010 film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Produced by Andrew Sugerman
Andrew Karsch
Tony Goldwyn
Written by Pamela Gray
Starring Hilary Swank
Sam Rockwell
Minnie Driver
Melissa Leo
Peter Gallagher
Juliette Lewis
Music by Paul Cantelon
Cinematography Adriano Goldman
Edited by Jay Cassidy
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date(s)
  • September 11, 2010 (2010-09-11) (TIFF)
  • October 15, 2010 (2010-10-15) (United States)
Running time 107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12.5 million[1]
Box office $9,710,055[1]

Conviction is a 2010 legal drama film directed by Tony Goldwyn, written by Pamela Gray, and starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell. The film premiered on September 11, 2010, at the Toronto International Film Festival[2] and was released in the US on October 15, 2010.[1]


The film is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a single mother who works tirelessly to free her wrongfully convicted brother, Kenny. The story unfolds in flashbacks, and the film opens with the scene of the brutal 1980 murder of Katharina Brow in Massachusetts. We soon see that, in many ways, Betty Anne's life revolves around her brother, who is now in jail for the murder. Despite Kenny's knack for getting in trouble, they have always been close. Two years after his release as a suspect in the 1980 murder of Katharina Brow in Ayer, Massachusetts, based on newly discovered evidence from two witnesses, Kenny is arrested and he is tried. The evidence presented at Kenny's trial was entirely circumstantial. In 1983, Kenny was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The three main witnesses against him are Sergeant Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo) from the local police department, his ex-wife, Brenda (Clea DuVall), and his ex-girlfriend, Roseanna (Juliette Lewis).

Three years later, Betty Anne lives with her husband, Rick (Loren Dean) and two sons, Richard and Ben. She is frantic that she has not heard from Kenny, who calls her every week, and she is finally told that he tried to commit suicide in prison. Betty Anne decides to go back to school and become a lawyer so she can exonerate him, but her husband is skeptical and unsupportive, and eventually they split up. As Betty Anne struggles with being a working mother going to law school at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, we see flashbacks of her life growing up with Kenny. Their mother was callous and uncaring, allowing her nine children (by seven different fathers) to grow up almost feral. Kenny and Betty Anne were very close, and used to break into neighborhood homes together just to feel like part of a normal family, until they were sent to separate foster homes. She continues to visit him, working in a bar while going to school, until her sons decide to move in with their Dad. Struggling in school, demoralized and exhausted, she stops going to classes, until a friend from school (Minnie Driver), comes to her house and prods her to just get up, get dressed, and get back to class.

In her study group, Betty Anne learns about the new field of DNA testing and realizes that this could be the key to overturning Kenny's conviction. She contacts attorney Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project. The backlog of cases will mean waiting more than a year unless she can pass the bar and find the blood evidence from Kenny's trial herself to have it tested. At first she is stonewalled, then told the evidence was destroyed, but she refuses to give up, and she and her friend Abra (Minnie Driver) embark on an odyssey to recover any evidence that might still be stored away somewhere. At the time of the trial, Kenny's blood type was shown to be the same as the killer's. DNA testing, however, did not exist. In the process, Betty Anne learns from an acquaintance who is now a police officer that Nancy Taylor was fired from the police department for fabricating evidence in another case. This deepens Betty Anne's suspicions about Kenny's conviction and the evidence presented at trial. Finally the DNA results come back and establish that the blood was not Kenny's. Betty Anne and Kenny are overjoyed and think he is about to be released, after 16 years in prison, but Martha Coakley, of the District Attorney's office, refuses to vacate the conviction. The office claims that there was still enough evidence to convict Kenny as an accomplice, and Kenny is convinced that no matter what, the authorities will find a way to keep him in prison to avoid admitting that his prosecution was botched. Betty Anne is heartbroken but again refuses to give up.

Betty Anne, Abra, and Barry Scheck visit the other two trial witnesses; Kenny's ex-wife and his ex-girlfriend. Both tearfully confess that Sergeant Nancy Taylor (who was the arresting officer) coerced and threatened them into perjuring themselves at Kenny's trial. With an affidavit from Kenny's ex-wife and the DNA evidence, Kenny's conviction is vacated and he is freed from prison after 18 years in June 2001. Betty Anne is able to persuade his daughter, Mandy (Ari Graynor), (whom he had only known as a small child), that he never stopped trying to reach out to her while he was in prison despite his ex-wife's efforts to estrange them. He is able to reconnect with his daughter, and is reunited with his sister and her sons.

The epilogue states that Betty Anne secured a large civil settlement from the City of Ayer for Kenny's wrongful conviction eight years later, but former Sergeant Nancy Taylor was immune from the crime because the Massachusetts statute of limitations had expired. Katharina Brow's real murderer has not been found.

The epilogue ends with a picture of the real Kenny and Betty Anne Waters.



Production began in February 2009, in Dexter, Michigan.[3][4] Filming also took place in Ann Arbor, Howell,[5] Pinckney,[5] Chelsea and Ypsilanti.[6][7] In Ypsilanti, filming took place in the historic Depot Town at a restaurant called Sidetrack Bar & Grill. In Howell, filming took place at the Livingston County Courthouse, along Dearborn Street at Cole's Elevator, and at the Howell Village Market (formerly Sefa's Super Market). The script was written by Pamela Gray. The poster was released June 21, 2010.[8]


Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 68% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 171 reviews, with an average score of 6.3/10. The critical consensus is: Less compelling – and more manipulative – than it should be, Conviction benefits from its compelling true story and a pair of solid performances from Swank and Rockwell.[9] Another review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, indicating "generally positive reviews".[10]

Martha Coakley, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who was portrayed in the film, commented after seeing a pre-screening on October 12, 2010, that it was a compelling film but there were legal inaccuracies or temporal exaggerations.[11] Family members of Katharina Brow, the murder victim, have criticized the film company and Hilary Swank for failing to consult the family on the movie's depiction of their mother.[12] Betty Anne Waters stated that the Brow family did not try to make any contact with her or Kenneth Waters when he was exonerated, nor did they offer any condolence when he died.[citation needed]


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2010 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell Nominated
2010 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Hilary Swank Nominated


  1. ^ a b c Conviction at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Evans, Ian (2010). "Conviction premiere photos - 35th Toronto International Film Festival". DigitalHit. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  3. ^ Jay A. Fernandez (March 1, 2009). "Loren Dean joins Hilary Swank in 'Waters'". The Hollywood Reporter. Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  4. ^ Dave McNary (February 24, 2009). "Melissa Leo jumps into 'Waters'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  5. ^ a b Michigan Film Office: Success Stories, Michigan Film Office
  6. ^ "Filming in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor". Filming in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  7. ^ "filming in Ann Arbor". filming in Ann Arbor. Retrieved 2011-06-22. 
  8. ^ "Conviction Poster". The Film Stage. June 21, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-21. 
  9. ^ "Conviction". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  10. ^ "Conviction". Metacritic. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  11. ^ Gelzinis, Peter, "Martha Coakley: Movie's 'inaccurate' but a 'delight'", The Boston Herald, October 14, 2010
  12. ^ Tourtellotte, Bob, "Hilary Swank film draws ire of victim's family", Reuters, October 14, 2010

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