The Confirmation (2016): Bicycle Thieves American Style (Review)

Jaeden Lieberer and Clive Owen - The Confirmation

Written and directed by Bob Nelson (his first time in the chair) The Confirmation is clearly influenced by the 1948 Vittorio De Sica classic Bicycle Thieves. It could even be considered a “re-working” or modernization of the Oscar nominated film. The plots are interchangeable:

An unemployed man is offered a job and his bike, which he needs for this new employment opportunity,  is stolen. He and his son search for the stolen bicycle.  (Bicycle Thieves)

A down on his luck man has his box of special tools stolen which he needs for an upcoming job. He and son search for the stolen tools. (The Confirmation)

There are even a few scenes that are essentially the same in both films. The thief is mauled (n “Thieves” he is slapped) and then “forgiven.”  Over and above the fact that this is a “remake” it deals with times of financial strife. The first in post-WWII Italy and the latter in present day America where the world is suffering economic turmoil.

Clive Owen is Walt, an alcoholic craftsman who if behind on his rent and struggling to make ends meet. He looks after his son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) on weekends.  His ex-wife Bonnie (Maria Bello) does not really trust him. 

Walt is offered a much needed job. He will need his “special” woodworking tools, passed on to him by his father, to do the work. While he is in a tavern the tools and the toolbox are stolen.

The Confirmation follows the adventures of Walt and Anthony trying to find who took the tools and getting them back.  The film is listed on IMDb as a comedy and this is being optimistic. A quirky dramedy certainly; with more than its fair share of heavy scenes, but not a comedy.

Owen is good at these types of roles. Where the character is of a more physical bent than intellectual.  He evokes an instant believability that just breathes truth. Lieberher, as Anthony, has a splendid chemistry with his  on-screen dad. The lad matches Clive in the “chops” stakes and this is a kid to keep an eye on.

This movie has number of familiar faces. Patton Oswalt  is the “meth-head” who attempts to help Walt retrieve his tools.Robert Forster is Walt’s old pal Otto. Matthew Modine (who is the scientist in Stranger Things on Netflix) is Bonnie’s new husband. Even the brilliant Canadian actor Michael Eklund (who played Bobo on Wynonna Earp) has a cameo.

(Prolific character actor Stephen Tobolowsky has a splendid cameo as the confessional Priest that Anthony confesses to twice.)

The Confirmation plays well. There are moments that are truly touching, mainly due to the interplay between  Owen and Lieberher.  The tale of a “damaged” father trying to survive and do right by his son is a touching one.  The boy becomes the parent, when needed, yet his naivety shines through repeatedly.

Nelson does a good job with his first feature film. Granted this is more of an updating of the 1948 classic film but it is rendered impressively.  The story travels well and is not out of place in its modern-day setting.  With so many facing economic issues it has a disturbing ring of truth.

There are comedic bits in the film, but not many.  The confession scenes at the start and end of the movie are the best and most obvious. Others are more peripheral in nature and not overtly comic in nature.

This is a 4.5 star film, losing a half star due to logic breakdowns in the storyline.  (It came close to losing another half star for not accrediting its “source” film.)

The Confirmation is steaming on Netflix.  Check this one out. It may not necessarily qualify as a “feel good” film but it comes close.  Owens and Lieberher rock this one. Watch the film and see what you think.

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Author: Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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