In 1983, Kenneth Waters, who was already known to police due to a mischievous childhood, was found guilty of murder in the first degree and condemned to a life in prison. Not believing for a second that her brother was guilty, little sister Betty-Anne Waters began a lengthy battle to free him from an undeserved fate.
Now, 28 years after his sentence, and nine years after his death, the new film Conviction, directed by Tony Goldwyn, tells the Waters’ emotional story of sibling loyalty, and the complications of a corrupted justice system.
Playing Betty-Anne Waters is the Oscar winner, and Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank, who portrays Betty-Anne’s determination and love for her brother through emotionally-charged jail visits, and discussions with family and friends.
A few years after his sentence, Betty-Anne enrols in a law degree to become an attorney. Yet as she gets deeper into the case she slowly loses grip on other aspects of her life. At this point, blood truly does seem thicker than water. Originally from Nebraska, Lincoln, Swank pulls off a heavy Boston accent, and even looks very similar to the real life Betty-Anne. She does an excellent job bringing Betty-Anne’s frustration and resilience to life on the screen.
The late Kenneth Waters is played by Charlie’s Angels villain, Sam Rockwell. His Waters is a fun-loving, yet often reckless personality. Indeed, Rockwell mixes these two elements so well that you’re never quite sure if he is guilty or innocent of his crime. His nonchalance to violence is a great contrast to his loving bond with his sister. Also appearing in the film are Peter Gallagher in the role of Barry Scheck, who is the co-director of the litigation and public policy organisation The Innocence Project, Minnie Driver as Betty-Anne’s friend, Abra Rice, and Juliette Lewis as Kenneth’s ex and key witness to his case.
The setting of the small town of Ayer in Massachusetts is quite beautiful and eerie in its loneliness, and it seems a perfect fit for a film about murder. Enhancing the atmosphere is a piano soundtrack that builds the intensity of the story as it unravels.
Conviction is a good film that highlights the problems within the American judicial system, and the Waters’ story is a perfect example of the power of family bonds and persistence to overcome adversity.
Radhika Chopra is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and has just joined the upstart editorial team.
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