Humor and caring richly imbue this inspiring ultimate modern family movie 10/10
Review by Brian R. Wright
No fewer than four actors in this exceptional film deserve Oscar nominations, including, of course, Clive Owen (Walt), then the others: Jaeden Lieberher (playing Walt’s son Anthony), Patton Oswalt (Drake: the meth addict with a heart of gold who embarrassingly tries to help the father-son team), and Robert Forster (Otto: Walt’s friend and confidant thru Walt’s struggles with alcoholism). Then you can toss in Maria Bello (Walt’s ex, Bonnie who wants Anthony to find moral grounding in her Catholic faith—hence the title, referring to Anthony’s impending confirmation—and even Matthew Modine (Kyle: Bonnie’s kindhearted yet fluttery new husband) for Academy recognition as well.
As we’re doing nominations, let’s also not forget writer/director Bob Nelson, either. Nelson takes the father-son personal, mutual journey to new heights, and reminds us that simple humanity can be sublime, even divine. The movie is pure magic, everyone involved simply hits the artistic target dead, solid, perfect. Every viewing reveals a subtle new truth.
Of what? This is the central metaphor that leaps right off the screen. We know from the first scenes when Walt comes to pick up Anthony (via visitation arrangements of the divorce), that Bonnie is making a special move to have Anthony attend church and ‘get with the program’ so to speak, by the rite of confirmation (which is designed to initiate a child into spiritual adulthood in many Christian denominations).
At the more vital level, Walt is in the midst of a life crisis, desperately hanging on to his vision of how to live as a man of integrity. He also loves his son, and wants to have a good, solid, loving relationship with him. So the word confirmation also applies to a) Walt’s hope for positive connection with his son and b) Walt’s self-confidence of whether his soul is right, at a fundamental level, with reality.
Similarly, Anthony needs to confirm that a) his father is a good man, b) that his father loves him, and c) that he, Anthony, is indeed ready to grow up as his own man.
The means by which all these latter Walt and Anthony confirmations are sought comes in the action of the film, set in the ideal down-scale, midsized northwestern-United-States town where people can actually function naturally as individuals who may at least know OF one another—that is, not being buried in the megalopolis’s cardboard cutouts and rat-race incentives. By their actions we come to know them. And feel deeply for them. Like a Larry McMurtry novel (Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment, Last Picture Show), when it reaches the end, you don’t EVER want to leave these best friends of yours.
The father-son adventure occurs over a long weekend, set in motion by a theft from Walt’s truck of his special carving tools… in the parking lot of a bar no less. Think about the nature of what was stolen: what kind of man has such a set of tools? A craftsman, of course. [At the slightest depth of consideration, viewers will be overwhelmed by the symbolism of the story. And its light cleverness, familiar humor, and epic universal struggles that inspire.]
I got the movie from the library, on recommendation of a lady friend. Then ordered a DVD of my own. Which I have now watched twice, and have a sneaking feeling it will be a monthly dose of emotional and spiritual fuel for me. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Underneath it all, in its soul, lies the reason for hope for our species… and confirmation that most people in their essence, as they stand here and now, are made of the right stuff and thoroughly worth the effort to keep on keepin’ on with.
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