One of four recent movies about being wrongly convicted, search for justice and know who your friends are in the bad times kind of stuff.
The others, as you ask, The Next Three Days, The Way Back and Henry’s Crime. It think that’s it.
This one is one of a clutch of what Hollywood calls ‘an incredible true story’ and it really is.
Hilary Swank plays Betty Anne from rural Massachusetts. She is very close to her brother, Kenny (the excellent, Sam Rockwell) from their childhood, having been placed in foster homes away from their own less than idyllic family situation. Neither of them innocent of childhood petty crimes, her brother grew up to be constantly on the police watch list whilst she managed to make a better life for herself, married and had two children to whom she remains devoted.
That all starts going out the window when her brother is arrested for a murder and sentenced to life imprisonment based pretty much on the evidence of an ex girlfriend and estranged wife.
I thought the film would start here and then concentrate on her efforts to get him released. It does but with cleverly inserts sequences from their childhood and more recent times. This could have got annoying but it wasn’t at all. It shows the brother-sister bond building and why she feels the need to spend something like 16 years first taking her High School exams and then studying law, just to represent him.
The major breakthrough was when DNA testing came along but by then, her brother’s evidence has been destroyed and Betty Anne has to find a way of hunting something down. Another mature student (Minnie Driver) who befriended her early at law school is her relentless accomplice in this.
In all, Kenny spends 18 years in prison, the last few months apparently just because the DA could not admit its mistake. Well that’s only human. What’s superhuman is this woman’s determination, despite the break up of her marriage, despite not being educated and despite not being a lawyer.
It’s not as gruesome as I expected (Claustrophobic and asthmatic; just the sound of the prison door shutting has me reaching for a brown paper bag) so it really is a must see, Oscar winner or not.
Smile factor 5/10