Screen Savor: Remember The Confirmation

Written by Gregg Shapiro

Filmmaker Atom Egoyan is well-known for making films that aren’t easy to watch (see The Sweet Hereafter) and Remember (A24) is no exception. Oscar winners Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Martin Landau (Ed Wood) play Zev and Max, respectively, two Jewish residents of a senior housing community facility.

Zev, still observing the mourning period following his wife Ruth’s passing, suffers from dementia. Max is confined to a wheelchair and on oxygen from COPD. However, he still has his wits about him and sends Zev on a mission of great importance to both men. Max tells Zev that they are the last living survivors of their Auschwitz prison block, and Zev is the only man who can still recognize the face of Otto Wallisch, who goes by the alias Rudy Kurlander, the block fuhrer who killed their families.

Zev slips out of the senior community and into a taxi with only an envelope containing a multi-page precise instructional letter from Max, a train ticket to Cleveland and a few hundred dollars in cash. After a stop at a pawn shop to purchase a gun, Zev begins his incredible journey by train and bus in which he meets a series of men named Rudy Kulander. Some of the men still live with family members; others are nearing the ends of their lives in long-term care facilities. One, who was a gay concentration camp survivor, elicits an unexpected response from Zev.

In his search to find Otto/Rudy, Zev has an especially terrifying encounter in Boise, Idaho (so much for Silver Alerts, right?) with John (Dean Norris), the anti-Semitic sheriff son of a deceased Nazi memorabilia collector. The confrontation results in Zev wetting his pants, a reaction that could easily occur amongst audience members. Nevertheless, Zev perseveres until he comes face to face with the one Rudy who reveals an utterly shocking and surprising secret about Zev and his quest. Calling Remember, a film you will not soon forget, riveting is an understatement.

With his Oscar-nominated screenplay for Nebraska as well as The Confirmation (Saban Films), the latest film based on one of his screenplays (and the first he has directed), Bob Nelson is becoming the white trash bard. The Confirmation, like Nebraska, involves an odyssey taken by a father and son in order to claim a treasure of sorts, giving it a mythological bent, as well.

The treasure in question is a set of expensive and old tools stolen out of the back of a pick-up truck owned by Walt (Clive Owen). Walt, a down-on-his-luck carpenter doing everything within his power to remain sober, is watching his son Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) for a couple of days while his devout ex-wife Bonnie (queer actress Maria Bello) and her second husband Kyle (Matthew Modine) attend a church-sanctioned couples’ weekend.

Anthony, on the verge of his first communion and confirmation, is conflicted and has lots of questions about life and religion. As the father and son follow various leads to retrieve the stolen tools, including interactions with gun-toting dad Vaughn (Tim Blake Nelson), former meth-head Drake (Patton Oswalt) and assorted denizens of the Pacific Northwest, they begin to repair the damage done to their relationship.

More than anything, The Confirmation confirms the acting skills of both Owen and Lieberher. It also shows great promise for Nelson as a filmmaker.

If you didn’t get enough extreme drama with Remember or The Confirmation, be sure to gird your loins for Macbeth (The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment), now on DVD. Driven husband and soldier Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) and his equally ambitious wife Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), as well as assorted royal families, and a trio of “weird sisters,” populate the latest film version of the violent Shakespeare tragedy, directed by Justin Kurzel with a screenplay by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie and Todd Louiso. DVD bonus features include a “making of” featurette and Fassbender Q&A.

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