Directed by: Tony Goldwyn
Written by:Pamela Gray
Starring: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, Peter Gallagher
Released: February 24, 2011
Grade: C+

It’s hard to imagine anything worse than being locked up for a crime you didn’t commit.  That’s the fate that befell Kenny Waters (Rockwell) in 1983.  He was convicted of murdering Katharina Brow, his next door neighbour at the time.

His younger sister, Betty Anne (Swank), was convinced of his innocence.  With little cash and all appeal avenues exhausted, she set her an incredible challenge – to get her high school diploma and then ultimately a law degree.  She would then be able to represent her brother and go in search of evidence to clear his name.

It’s was a big sacrifice.  Betty Anne had given up almost everything in her own life to try to save that of her brother’s.  Her marriage fell apart and her relationship with her two sons wasn’t ideal.  It took more than a decade but she got there – passing the bar examination and graduating from Roger Williams University.

In the time that had passed since Kenny was incarcerated, significant advancements had been made with DNA testing.  Betty Anne had heard of a group known as the Innocence Project who helped obtain DNA evidence to overturn incorrect convictions.  It seemed like the answer to her prayers but in fact, it created a new problem.  The evidence, including blood samples from the scene of the crime, had been destroyed several years ago.

This is a fascinating story which has been told in a not-so-fascinating manner.  The first half of the film is a mess.  There are flashbacks going everywhere.  You don’t get a sense for these characters at all.  They include scenes from when Betty Anne and Kenny were kids to try to show the “bond” between them.  They’re unnecessary.  The original trial and the subsequent appeals are also glossed over.  We never really understand how Kenny was easily convicted and what underhanded tactics were used by the prosecutors.

Things improve in the second half as we build towards the conclusion (which some may already know).  Hilary Swank’s strong performance will have you cheering for her until the end.  I still can’t recommend the film however.  My suggestion is to give it a miss and instead, spend a half-hour on the internet reading about Betty Anne Waters and her amazing journey.  You’ll take a lot more away than watching what feels like an extended episode of Law & Order.