Another first feature from 2016 – The Confirmation is a gentle movie from writer turned director Bob Nelson. Nelson is perhaps best known for being the screenwriter behind Alexander Payne’s 2013 effort, Nebraska. The Confirmation details an unusual weekend spent between Walt (Clive Owen) & his young son, Anthony (Jason Lieberher). Walt is a drunk between jobs, just trying to get it together, whereas Anthony is a quiet little intellectual who passively observes the world and takes it at face value. The plot is derivative but what Nelson ultimately accomplishes is a sweet, quiet film about class divide, the dire economic climate, and how it informs Walt & Anthony’s relationship.
Walt is a tradesmen who has fallen on hard times. Owen’s body language is the key to this character – Walt’s slouchy shoulders and unassuming manner belay a weary disinterest in what his life has become. Whereas lesser films may play his type of misfortune for laughs, we feel nothing but the same weariness when Walt’s car won’t start, or he comes home to find an eviction notice nailed to his door. In spite of that The Confirmation avoids any maudlin trappings. It is partially because of Anthony. In him we see a profound interest in the world and what it has to offer. The film oscillates between one life and another – the life of the destitute and the life of the middle-class. Anthony is able to transcend those worlds and see them as they are. Walt is a similar traveller – having once lived on the other side.
The Confirmation is shot almost entirely out of doors. On lawns covered in refuse and in broken down homes are real live people trying to eek out an existence. It’s something this film is acutely aware of – Walt & Anthony could be anyone – but they meet the decaying suburb as equals. They are the expression of the best that the world on screen has to offer, and the film never passes judgement on characters who may, at first, seem stupid or irresponsible. Everyone redeems themselves by simply being a flawed human. The Confirmation maintains a belief in the viability of people & the lives they lead.
Nelson’s ultimate thesis is that, whatever is happening in the world, a strong relationship built on mutual love and respect can be an buoy to grab on to. There is nothing cute or overdone in The Confirmation – at times it even feels a little scant – but that is probably because Nelson secures everything in the realm of the possible.