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THE CONFIRMATION – In Nomine Patris

the-confirmation

Directed by Bob Nelson
Starring Clive Owen, Jaedan Liehberher, Patton Oswald

When the writer of the Oscar nominated Nebraska, releases his directorial debut, it is enough to pique your interest. Bob Nelson brings us the simple story of a father and son trying to reconnect in an America undergoing economic doldrums.

Two days with his down-and-out alcoholic father, Walt (Clive Owen), might not be an ideal weekend for Anthony (Jaedan Liehberher). However when Walt’s tools are stolen, both father and son find themselves desperately trying to track down the thieves, as failure would leave Walt destitute.

This is a workhorse of a small film. At face value it tells the story of a father struggling with the strained relationship with his son, and both trying to reforge that bond by a shared adventure. It is a redemption arc for Owen’s character as he plays a man broken by his own alcoholism and inability to connect with the modern world. All of this is played out against a background of a larger issue, the death of the American blue-collared working class (as industry moves off-shore and economic disparities widen). It’s a significant theme to tackle, and one that is clearly woven throughout this tale, but never overwhelms it. That special combination of a deft hand at directing, a clever script, and two actors capable of conveying both the emotional and comedic elements, have all aligned here.

Owen is a great choice for the lead. His is a face full of character and regrets, as his slumped shouldered Walt strolls onto the screen. From the initial strains of his car’s engine failing to turn over, we are told all we need to know about the character in an economical style. He is a man of another era, hopelessly out of his time, built on ruggered self reliance and hard living. Nor does The Confirmation entirely romanticise the past. Walt is a hard man, out of touch with his emotions, prone to using alcohol as a crutch, inflexible and quick to resort to his fists.

His son acts as a contrast to this, as Anthony is enigmatically played by Jadean Liehberher (Midnight Special, St. Vincent). He handles the role as a veteran, and part of the joy of The Confirmation is in the revelation of what sort of person Anthony is. Suffice to say Liehberher is able to stand toe to toe with Owen, and both of them have a great chemistry together. It is the heart of this film, and their low key and stilted reconnection is heart-warming to watch.
A solid little comedy drama, with two great leads and a lot to say.

DAVID O’CONNELL