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The Confirmation (2016)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/7/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/31/2016

As someone who dabbles in screenwriting (and would like to do a lot more than dabble), I like to ponder on where writers get their ideas. When it comes to big, tentpole films, I rarely have a problem imagining the origin of the concept, as most of these spring from "What if...?" and "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" notions. But, when it comes to slice-of-life movies, those little movies which show realistic people in realistic situations, I'm often flummoxed at what their inspiration was. My first assumption (and often my only assumption) is that it must be based on something which happened to them personally. No matter the origin, these films must offer a story which offers something somewhat unique and interesting. We certainly get that with The Confirmation.

Clive Owen stars in The Confirmation as Walt, a man who has had a rough go of it lately. Not only does he have a drinking problem, he has difficulty finding consistent work as a carpenter. However, despite these issues, Walt doesn't shirk his duties as a father, and he enjoys the weekends when he has his son, Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher). On this occasion, he meets his ex-wife, Bonnie (Maria Bello), at church, where Anthony is struggling with confession, as he can't think of any sins. Following this, Walt goes to a bar, while Anthony waits in the truck. This bad move aside, Walt's day starts to look up when he gets a call about a job. But, things immediately turn grey again when he realizes that his tools have been stolen. So, Walt and Anthony begin an adventure which includes driving around town and meeting a lot of interesting people. And Anthony does a lot of sinning.

The Confirmation marks the directorial debut of Bob Nelson, who scored an Oscar nomination for writing 2013's Nebraska. The script for his latest project shows the same ability to capture real small-town America as shown in the previous work. Nelson appears to be have been born to make "slice-of-life" movies, and he seems especially adept at presenting what are clearly real-world situations, but it's something that just quirky enough to feel novel. Nebraska offered an old man who was willing to walk hundreds of miles to claim a prize. In The Confirmation, Walt and Anthony appear very common-place on the surface. Walt is an everyman who is going through a rough time in his life. And while he's often stoic, we learn that he is passionate about his craft, and while he's not a great role model, about his son as well. Anthony really proves to be an interesting character, as he is an innocent, and somehow wise beyond his years. We really watch him grow in just a short amount of time, as he learns that the world can be a hard place, but also that he has a loving family.

There are some clues here that Nelson is directing for the first time. The opening scene, in which Anthony struggles with confession, is funny and engaging, but the movie drags for a bit after that and I was beginning to wonder if there was going to be a story. Even at 90-minutes, the movie feels a bit long, as it is very episodic and a bit redundant at times. Nelson has taken on an admirable task by making the lost box of tools the guiding plot point in the film, but this can only be stretched so far. Yes, the actual point of the film is the bonding between father and son, but their escapades running around town looking for the purloined tools attempts to act as the backbone of the movie and it falls short at times.

And yet, for the movie with little story and no action, there is something undeniably charming about The Confirmation. Owen does a great job playing a broken man, and there's no evidence that he typically plays suave and debonair types. I've seen no evidence that Lieberher isn't a lost Culkin brother and he really rises to the occasion, as he appears in nearly every scene in the film. There's also a very nice supporting cast, and I'm convinced that a well-known comic actor who appears in the movie ad-libbed all of his dialogue. The movie offers a nice blend of drama and humor and, during the summer months, it's actually refreshing to see a film which wants to dazzle us with characters and dialogue as opposed to explosions.

The Confirmation made me want to visit Burger Hut on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. Nelson has shot the film in a very natural style, and he captures a crisp image which also shows off the overcast weather of the region. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as we can make out the textures on objects and the depth is what one would expect from a movie like this. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As this is a quiet drama, we don't get many dynamic audio effects here. A few scenes provide noticeable stereo and surround effects, and the score sounds fine. For the most part, you will focus on the dialogue, which comes through just fine.

The Confirmation Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. "A Father-Son Story: Inside the Characters of The Confirmation" (11 minutes) has Writer/Director Bob Nelson describing the real-life origins of the film and what he tried to bring to the movie in terms of story and theme. We also hear from Owen and Jaeden Lieberher who describe how they approached the characters. "The Performances of The Confirmation" (8 minutes) has Nelson and various cast members talking about the characters and the story. The actors talk about the story and how their characters fit in.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long