Review: The Confirmation
Director: Bob Nelson
By Sarah Stopforth
Bob Nelson, who wrote the screenplay for Oscar nominated beauty Nebraska (2013), wrote, produced and made his directorial debut in this moving film exploring the relationship between a young boy, Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher), and his father, Walt (Clive Owen). The story reminded me of one of my favourite films of all time, the Italian classic Bicycle Thieves (1948, Vittorio de Sica), but from an ‘Americana’ perspective.
The film opens with Anthony kneeling in a confessional booth, ready to bear his sins to the priest (Stephen Tobolowsky), but he cannot recall any wrongdoings since his last confession. Anthony has returned to church as per the request of his mother (Maria Bello) and stepfather (Matthew Modine). The priest refuses to believe that he hasn’t told one lie, had one ‘impure thought’ or disrespected his mother or father since his last session, but Anthony is sure that he has done no wrongdoings. The priest instructs him to perform multiple prayers nonetheless for sacrament, because he surely is lying or doesn’t confess his committed sins. However, from just this short introduction to the character, Anthony seems like an intelligent, honest kid, beyond his eight years. As he is saying his penance, he looks up to see a model of Jesus hanging on the crucifix, quite a graphic image for a young boy, and he bolts out of the church, mid-prayer. He then lies to his mother that he completed his penance, the first of many ‘moral grey areas’ that Anthony faces throughout the film whilst staying with his father for the weekend.
Walt, a recovering alcoholic, is trying his best to remain on the wagon, so that he can continue to see his son every week. His ex makes it clear that if he starts drinking again, he will not see Anthony. Walt, is an unemployed, or “freelancer” as he puts it, carpenter by trade, and is very good at fixing things; building things. Walt and Anthony drive in his truck (which is on its last legs) to the local tavern, where Walt has a meeting for a job prospect. Walt tells Anthony to wait in the car. But when Anthony becomes concerned that his father is drinking, he leaves the truck to check on him. A seemingly insignificant decision whirls the story into turmoil when Walt’s father’s toolbox (which he needs for his new job) is stolen from the back of the truck. Walt and Anthony spend the weekend following every lead they can to find who stole his toolbox.
The Confirmation is a beautiful exploration of the love of a son and the love of a father, both literally and religiously, and why faith is important to some at different stages in life. The film confirms that religion is a path that many start on, teaching us ‘right’ from ‘wrong’, but it’s important to decide what is ‘right’ for you.
The Confirmation sees that the path of ‘righteousness’ is the path that you choose and how hard it is to confirm that choice, whether you’re a father or a son.