When I reviewed the marketing campaign for The Confirmation I was struck by the shifts in tone that happened across different elements. The poster seemed to want us to smile along at the story of a father bonding with his son while the trailer presented a fairly dark and depressing journey through an emotional and economic wasteland.
The movie itself is somewhere inbetween. Clive Owen plays Walt, a divorced dad and struggling carpenter who is about to spend a weekend with his son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) while his ex-wife Bonnie (Maria Bello) is out of town with her new husband. But an otherwise boring weekend is shaken up when Walt’s specialty toolbox is stolen, the one he needs to complete the first job he’s gotten in a while. So with Anthony in tow he goes around town trying to find the toolbox, leading him to confrontations with the town’s criminal elements as well as others who have it even worse than he does.
The story, though, it’s about the relationship between Walt and Anthony. Or at least it’s not just about that relationship. The main point of the movie is about what constitutes a sin?
Anthony is presented throughout the movie as very religious and is preparing for his First Communion. At one point he has nothing to confess to the priest, which seems funny at the time but as the audience gets to know him you can see that Anthony doesn’t have a lustful, selfish, sinful bone in his body. He wants to help and be nice, offering half his candy bar to a random kid who’s stuck waiting in a nearby car while their dads are in a bar for hours. Throughout the movie, though, he’s constantly being put in a position where he has to lie or steal. But are those sins if their in service of helping someone else and the overall good?
There’s a scene that illustrates this well: Walt eventually finds who stole the toolbox, but the thief has long-since hocked it. He and his wife have both been out of work for a long while and needed the immediate money to feed their kids before the whole family moves out of state to get a fresh start. Walt is obviously upset because they stole from him, but is what they did wrong? It’s the classic ethics question, but played out in stark terms.
That sort of moral quandary isn’t presented anywhere in the campaign but it’s the strongest part of the movie. A story of a divorced, mildly-depressed, down on his luck father trying to connect with his son has been done plenty of times, but few movies have taken such an interesting approach to an ethical issue. Admittedly, that would have been hard to fit into the trailer, but that it wasn’t even hinted at is mildly disappointing.
The Confirmation didn’t make much of an impression when it was released on iTunes and to theaters this past March. While it’s not the best movie you’ll see, it’s definitely worth finding, if only for the way Anthony in particular navigates some treacherous moral ground.